The Russians have proposed a moon mission during which they jokingly claim they will verify the six moon landings claimed by the US from 1969 to 1972. After Russia achieved a landing on the moon in 1959 the joke was that their flag was getting lonely waiting for the American flag to join it. Which happened in 1964. Only three countries have made successful robotic probes land on the moon: US, Russia and China. Five countries have had successful probes orbit the moon. Only the US has had manned missions that landed and successfully returned to the Earth.
Most recently China landed on the dark side of the moon, January 2019. Previously China successfully made a soft-land on the moon in December of 2013. But the journey in 2019 took them on an arguably more difficult route to the side of the moon which faces away from earth. This is the side that no machine has touched and no camera has photographed from the surface. In order to communicate with the far side of the moon a communications relay satellite was first placed in lunar orbit.
Zhua Menghua, professor of science and technology at Macau University is quoted by the New York Times as saying, “This space mission shows that China has reached the advanced world-class level in deep space exploration. We Chinese people have done something that the Americans have dared not try.” And the world grants them full and well-deserved recognition.
The other project that looms like the moon over the night sky, is a plan to launch an artificial moon into orbit to illuminate city streets after dark. To do this the launch will need to be 760 times closer to the earth – about 310 miles away, compared to the moon’s 236,000 miles. But the estimate is that at that closer distance the artificial moon could be eight times more luminous than the actual, original moon.
And, of course, considerably smaller as well. Necessitating multiple artificial moons targeted to specific cities. The first city to have its own personal moon is the city of Chengdu, the capital of China’s southwestern Sichuan province. Although brighter, the city’s moon “wouldn’t light up the entire night sky. Its expected brightness, in the eyes of humans, is around one-fifth of normal streetlights.”
How will they accomplish such a fete? With a lot of research, preparation and testing over “an uninhabited desert, so our light beams will not interfere with any people on Earth-based space observation equipment.” A fact indicated by a projected 2020 first launch. According to a report in Chinese state media, the Artificial Moon is an illuminated satellite which will wear a reflective coating to cast sunlight back to Earth.
What about “light pollution?” According to a 2016 study over 80 percent of the world’s people live in areas designated as “light-polluted.” The excess of light disturbs the circadian life-rhythms of day-night, which can be damaging to health in the long-term. The artificial moon is offered as a less-harmful alternative to traditional street lights. The artificial moon may be able to decrease light pollution while still illuminating the night sky.