A Chinese aerospace company has announced an ambitious plan to launch a fake moon into orbit in 2020.
This info all comes via Wu Chunfeng, the chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co., who spoke last week at an innovation and entrepreneurship conference in Chengdu. He explained that their artificial moon will be eight times brighter than Earth's natural moon and be "bright enough to replace street lights in the city". The artificial moon is made from a reflective coating that can aim the sun's light back to Earth and cover a span of 6 miles to 50 miles.
There are precedents for the scheme, though the technology and ambitions differ. In 2013, the town set up three computer-controlled mirrors to shine sunlight into the main square; you can see it in action below. If the effort is successful, it would likely mean the city would have the equivalent of a full moon every night rather than just at certain times of the month. "Several" proved an overstatement, but the design was shown to be sound.
Of course, artificial lighting is already a contentious issue - potential annoyances at the loss of a night sky aside, these lights have the potential to negatively impact human health, animal routines, and make life harder for astronomers.
But Znamya 2.5 misfired on launch and its creators failed to raise funding for another attempt. The People's Daily also clarified that the satellite created to complement the natural moonlight, describing it as "similar to a dusk-like glow".