After the sun, China is building an ‘artificial moon’ on Earth to mimic the lunar environment

China’s space program has grown by leaps and bounds, with 2021 being one of the most successful years for Beijing in the 21st century. The country has now built an artificial lunar facility that will simulate lunar conditions and the environment for scientists to test new technologies and future missions.

Dubbed the “first of its kind in the world”, the facility in the eastern city of Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, will “disappear” gravity. The facility can replicate low-gravity environments for as long as desired, making China less dependent on zero-gravity aircraft to train astronauts and environments to test new rovers and technologies.

Li Ruilin of the China University of Mines and Technology, who is leading the development, told the South China Morning Post: “Although low gravity can be achieved in an airplane or a drop tower, it is momentary. . Li said in the simulator that the effect can “last as long as you want”.

The mini-moon measures about two feet in diameter and the artificial surface was made of rocks and dust as light as those of the moon. It should be mentioned that the gravity on the Moon is not zero, it is six times stronger than the gravity on Earth due to the magnetic field.

“Some experiments such as an impact test only require a few seconds, but others such as creep tests can take several days,” Li added.

The idea of ​​developing the facility has its roots in Russian-born physicist Andre Geim’s experiments to levitate a frog with a magnet. The physicists went on to win a Nobel Prize for this groundbreaking experiment. “Magnetic levitation is certainly not the same thing as antigravity, but there are a variety of situations where mimicking microgravity through magnetic fields could be invaluable in expecting the unexpected in space research,” they said. said the physicists at the SCMP.

While China has already passed the fourth phase of its lunar exploration program which will see the construction of a research station on the Moon and lunar exploration through future missions Chang’e-6, Chang’e- 7 and Chang’e-8, the new facility will play a crucial role.

The Chang’e-7 spacecraft will launch toward the moon’s south pole, followed by Chang’e-6, which will bring the samples back from the surface. Beijing has already planned to land astronauts on the lunar surface by 2030 as it continues construction of its space station in low Earth orbit.

Li further told the SCMP that the lunar simulator could also be used to test whether new technologies such as 3D printing could be used to build structures on the lunar surface. “Certain experiments conducted in the simulated environment can also give us important clues, such as where to look for trapped water below 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 nearly infinite clean energy.