Gao qipei – bamboo, plum blossom and the moon (1713)
The satellite should help to save electricity
Wu chunfeng, head of the tian fu scientific society and chairman of casc, a company closely associated with the chinese space program, announced in the china daily newspaper that in 2020 a satellite will be sent into orbit around the earth from the sichuan spaceport xichang, not for communication but for illumination. For this purpose, it is equipped with reflectors that redirect sunlight to the earth.
With that, the not (like its natural relative) 380.000, but only 500 kilometers away from the earth, should not be visible at night as a moon, but only as a bright star, but nevertheless be able to illuminate areas with a diameter of up to 80 kilometers. Where it shines, according to wu chunfeng, can be seen with an accuracy of "a few dozen meters" will discontinue the project and reduce it to a diameter of ten kilometers. According to him, this can be very helpful, among other things, during power outages and in disaster areas.
In addition to a complete shutdown, the brightness of the satellite’s reflection can also be adjusted. The maximum possible light intensity is eight times that of the moon, which according to wu chunfeng is perceived by humans as twilight. According to his calculations, the sichuan provincial capital of chengdu could save 1.2 billion yuan a year – the equivalent of a good 150 million euros – by replacing artificial lighting generated on earth.
Before such an operation, there is a test phase that takes place not in this city of millions, but on a patch of desert. Among other things, they want to investigate whether and what effects the lighting has on the fauna. If the test is successful, three illumination satellites are to follow in 2022, which will be able to reach an area of between 3.600 and 6.400 square kilometers of rough terrain will be provided with additional light not only at night, but also during the day.
A failed experiment in russia and an american disco ball
China is not the first country to try this idea: in the 1990s, the russian space agency roskosmos experimented with it under the project name "znamya", dear it to be again, however, after a mirror did not unfold in 1999 (cf. News from space and artificial sun in space – not risen). Somewhat less ambitious experiments in norway and italy were more successful:
In norway, for the past five years, part of the town of rjukan has benefited from sunlight provided by movable mirrors placed on mountains. Their orientation is automatically adjusted to the position of the sun by software. In italy, this method has already been used since 2006 to illuminate the piedmont mountain community of viganella, where previously between the 12. November and 1. No sun was visible for 83 days in february because it did not rise above the mountain tops at that time of year. The procession with which they celebrated the return of the warmth giver at candlemas was kept by the inhabitants of the village.
Mining helium-3 on the moon
More of a gimmick, on the other hand, is the humanity star announced by the private company rocket lab – a kind of reflective disco ball that is supposed to be visible from earth, but not to provide light in usable scale.
China also appears to have made more serious efforts than the americans in other space projects in recent years. In 2016, there were 22 space rocket launches there, the same number as in the u.S. – and in 2017, taikonauts jing haipeng and chen dong spent several weeks on the test space station tiangong 2. This is to be manned continuously from 2022 and supplied with the tianzhou space freighter. 2024 a manned moon flight is to follow, until 2050 one to mars (cf. Musk plans mars colonization starting in 2025).
The plans of indian scientists like sivathanu pillai are even more ambitious: the professor employed by the indian space research organization (isro) wants to solve the country’s energy problems by mining helium-3 on the moon. According to his estimation, the lunar dust isotope, which is extremely rare on earth, could contribute to india’s energy supply in fusion reactors as early as 2030, although so far not even the problem has been solved of how to get the helium-3 or the energy obtained from it to earth in such an inexpensive way that mining it is economically worthwhile (cf. New race to the moon).