China artificial moon is about two feet in diameter (60 centimeters) and the artificial surface has been made with rocks and dust.
China’s space programme has been growing by leaps and bounds, with 2021 as one of the most successful years for Beijing in the 21st Century. The country has now built an artificial moon facility that will simulate lunar conditions and the environment for scientists to test new tech and future missions.
Being called the “first of its kind in the world”, the facility located in the eastern city of Xuzhou, in Jiangsu province, will make gravity “disappear”. The facility can replicate low gravity environments for as long as one wants, making China less dependent on zero-gravity planes to train astronauts, and environments to test new rovers and technologies.
Li Ruilin, from the China University of Mining and Technology, who is leading the development, told the South China Morning Post, “While low gravity can be achieved in an aircraft or a drop tower, it is momentary. Li said in the simulator that effect can “last as long as you want.”
The mini-moon is about two feet in diameter and the artificial surface has been made with rocks and dust that are as light as those on the moon. It is worth mentioning that gravity on the Moon is not zero, it is one-sixth as powerful as the gravity on Earth due to the magnetic field.
The idea to develop the facility has its roots in the Russian-born physicist Andre Geim’s experiments to levitate a frog with a magnet. The physicists later won a Nobel for this groundbreaking experiment. “Magnetic levitation is certainly not the same as antigravity, but there is a variety of situations where mimicking microgravity by magnetic fields could be invaluable to expect the unexpected in space research,” the physicists told SCMP.
With China already clearing the fourth phase of its lunar exploration program that will see the construction of a research station on the Moon and lunar exploration through future Chang’e-6, Chang’e-7 and Chang’e-8 missions, the new facility will play a crucial part.
The Chang’e-7 spacecraft will be launched to the moon’s South Pole, followed by Changé-6, which will return the samples from the surface. Beijing already has plans to land astronauts on the lunar surface by 2030 as it continues the construction of its space station in Low Earth Orbit.
Li further told SCMP that the moon simulator could also be used to test whether new technology such as 3D printing could be used to build structures on the lunar surface. “Some experiments conducted in the simulated environment can also give us some important clues, such as where to look for water trapped under the surface,” he added.
China has already developed an “artificial sun” to replicate the nuclear fusion process that occurs naturally in the sun and stars to provide almost infinite clean energy.