China is giving the moon an upgrade.
The country’s government has announced plans to send a fake moon–or even a few fake moons–into the sky over Chengdu, in the southwestern Sichuan province. Officials hope to launch the artificial moon in 2020 so its fake light can brighten the shadows. The so-called “illumination satellites” are not meant to replace the moon, China Daily reports. Instead, the satellites will be designed to complement the light of the real moon, although it’s hard to imagine they won’t outshine the real thing, as their light is expected to be eight times brighter.
The government hopes the illumination satellites will make the “moonlight” a little brighter and lessen the need for street lamps and lower electricity costs, state media reported. The satellites will provide a “dusk-like glow” over the city capable of either spreading their artificial light over a large swath of the city or pinpointing a few feet, which could let the city replace streetlights.
The fake moon was dreamed up by Wu Chunfeng, the chairman of private space contractor Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co (Casc), which is the main contractor of China’s space program. He reportedly has already started testing the satellites and hopes to have them lighting up the night sky in just a few years. The satellite will produce light thanks to a reflective coating that can “deflect sunlight” back to Earth in the same way the moon does, according to China Daily.
This is not the first time someone has tried to improve on nature’s design. Not only did Russian scientists attempt something called Project Znamya in the 1990s, but a Bond villain attempted it as well. It would have worked, too, if not for James Bond.
Now it’s up to China to prove whether illumination satellites will work in practice or if the idea is truly pie in the sky. Assuming it will end up looking like this: