2021 will be one of Beijing’s most successful years of the 21st Century in terms of its space programme. Now, scientists can test new technology and future missions from this artificial moon facility that simulates lunar conditions.
The facility located in the eastern city of Xuzhou in Jiangsu province, has been called the world’s first of its kind. China can enable astronauts to train in zero-gravity environments as long as they like, and test new rovers and technologies much more easily than it depends on zero-gravity planes. The artificial surface of the mini-moon is made up of rocks and dust that are as light as those on the moon. As a result of the magnetic field, gravity on the Moon is one-sixth as powerful as gravity on Earth.
The idea for developing the facility originated from experiments conducted by Russian-born physicist Andre Geim to levitate a frog with a magnet. These physicists were later awarded the Nobel Prize for this breakthrough 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.
China has already completed the fourth phase of its lunar exploration program that will see the construction of a research station on the Moon and lunar exploration by future missions Chang’e-6, Chang’e-7, and Chang’e-8, so the new facility will be crucial. The Chang’e-7 spacecraft will be sent to the moon’s South Pole, followed by the Changé-6 probe that will return samples from the surface. While building its space station in low Earth orbit, Beijing already plans to land astronauts on the moon by 2030. The Chinese have developed an ‘artificial sun’ to mimic the nuclear fusion process that occurs naturally in the sun and stars to provide nearly infinite clean energy.