China to launch ‘artificial moon’ for illuminating city streets

China is planning to launch its own artificial moon by the year 2020 to replace streetlamps and lower electricity costs in urban areas. Its state media reported on Friday.

Chengdu, a city in southwestern Sichuan province of China, is developing “illumination satellites” which will shine in tandem with the real moon but would be eight times brighter, according to China Daily.

The first ever man-made moon will launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan. Three more would follow in 2022 if the first test goes well, said Wu Chunfeng, the head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society, the organisation which has taken over the project.

The first launch will be experimental. If this is successful, the 2022 satellites “will be the real deal with great civic and commercial potential,” Wu Chunfeng said in an interview with China Daily.

The satellites could replace streetlamps in urban areas by reflecting light from the sun. This would save an estimated 1.2bn yuan ($170m) a year in electricity costs for Chengdu, if the man-made moons illuminate an area of 50 square kilometres.

He added that the extraterrestrial source of light could even help rescue efforts in disaster zones during blackouts.