After Sun, China Builds ‘Artificial’ Moon For Gravity Experiments

The artificial moon facility, is slated to be launched this year.

Representational image of moon. (Source: Pexels)

New Delhi: China has built an ‘artificial’ moon in its city of Xuzhou, which mimics lunar environmental conditions, which will help the country conduct various gravity experiments, technology and other research.

As per a report in a Chinese publication, South China Morning Post, the lunar artificial moon facility, which is ‘the first of its kind’ is built in the eastern city of Xuzhou, where China will test ist low gravity planes and train its astronauts for future lunar or other space missions.

Li Ruilin, a geotechnical engineer 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 artificial moon facility, which is slated to be launched this year, is a two-foot diameter (60 cms) vacuum chamber which uses powerful magnetic fields to make gravity ‘disappear’. Li adds that its inspiration came from Russian-born physicist Andre Geim’s previous experiment where a frog was levitated using magnets.

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The facility which mimics the moon’s low gravity environment, which one-sixth of the earth’s gravitational pull, will be used for impact tests as well as creep tests, in which material’s deformity due to constant temperature and pressure is studied.

“Some experiments, such as an impact test, need just a few seconds [in the simulator],” Li said. “But others, such as creep testing, can take several days.”

China, which is amidst clearing its fourth phase of its lunar exploration programme, which plans to construct a lunar research station on the moon and send its lunar expeditions through Chang’e-6, Chang’e-7 and Chang’e-8 missions, places great importance to the artificial moon facility.

The experiments and studies will follow the previous mission of Chang’e-4 and Chang’e-5. Chang’e-4 mission landed a space rover on the far side of the moon in 2019, while Chang’e 5 mission retrieved rock samples from the moon’s surface in 2020.

China already has plans to send astronauts to the moon by 2030. It has already created an ‘artificial’ sun in June 2021, when Chinese scientists reached 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds using nuclear fusion like the sun. They used deuterium for the experiment.