China builds artificial moon — Action News Now

China has built an artificial moon on Earth that simulates low-gravity conditions — the first of its kind. The facility is expected to play a key role in China’s future lunar exploration missions.

The artificial moon project in the eastern city of Xuzhou is expected to be officially launched in the next few months, Li Ruilin, a scientist at China University of Mining and Technology, said in a speech on Tuesday.

Li describes the program as “World’s First” and says it takes moon simulations to a whole new level as it enables gravity “disappear” and can “For as long as you want.”

The facility consists of a vacuum chamber that houses a mini”moon” is 60 centimeters (about two feet) in diameter. The lunar-like landscape is made of rock and dust that are as light as those on our moon.

The landscape is supported by a magnetic field, just like the moon—where the gravity is about one-sixth that of Earth. Where the magnetic field is strong enough, certain light objects, such as frogs or chestnuts, can levitate.

The project is likely to play an important role in preparing China for lunar operations, allowing scientists to test equipment and even prevent potentially costly miscalculations on the moon itself, Li said.

“Some experiments, like the shock test, only take a few seconds [in the simulator],” Lee said, adding that “Others like creep testing can take days.”

The scientist noted that it could also be used to test whether 3D printing would work on the moon, or whether lunar settlements could survive.

“Some experiments in simulated environments can also give us important clues about where to look for water trapped under the surface,” He said.

Many technological innovations were required to make the facility, Li said, noting that the magnetic forces needed to create the atmosphere are so strong that they can tear apart parts such as superconducting wires and render many metal parts useless.

He added that the facility, inspired by Andre Geim’s experiments in levitating frogs with magnets, will be open to researchers from around the world.

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