China builds ‘artificial moon’ to test gravity

i24NEWS

2 min read
The Earth's shadow partially obscures the moon as it emerges from behind a cloud during a lunar eclipse in the skies over Beijing, China, on May 26, 2021.
AP Photo/Ng Han GuanThe Earth's shadow partially obscures the moon as it emerges from behind a cloud during a lunar eclipse in the skies over Beijing, China, on May 26, 2021.

Researchers will test technologies in prolonged low-gravity environments before sending them to the moon

Chinese scientists built an “artificial moon” research facility that will reportedly enable them to simulate low-gravity environments. 

The facility, set to officially launch this year, will use powerful magnetic fields in a 60-centimeter wide vacuum chamber to make gravity “disappear.”

Scientists were inspired by Andre Geim, a physicist at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, who made a frog levitate with a magnet.

Li Ruilin, an engineer at the China University of Mining and Technology, told South China Morning Post (SCMP) that the chamber is the “first of its kind in the world” and that it could sustain low-gravity conditions for “as long as you want.”

Researchers will use the facility to test technologies in prolonged low-gravity environments before being sent to the actual moon, where gravity is just one-sixth of its strength on Earth.

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This will let them fix any technical kinks and test whether certain structures survive on the moon, as well as assess the viability of a human settlement there.

"Some experiments, such as an impact test, need just a few seconds [in the simulator]," Li said, SCMP reported.

"But others, such as creep testing, can take several days." 

A creep test measures the rate of deformation of a material under constant temperature or stress.

China declared that it plans to establish a lunar research station on the moon by 2029.