Chinese scientists have built an “artificial moon” research facility that will enable them to simulate low-gravity environments using magnetism.
Scientists plan to use the artificial moon facility to test technology in prolonged low-gravity environments before it is sent to the moon, where gravity is just one-sixth of its strength on Earth. Artificial Moon will allow them to iron out any costly technical kinks, as well as test whether certain structures will survive on the moon’s surface and assess the viability of a human settlement there.
China has created an artificial moon in low-gravity research facility. The gravity of this place can be controlled using powerful magnets by scientists to such low levels that it could successfully simulate the moon’s gravity, as per South China Morning Post. The research facility can control the gravity inside a vacuum chamber that is 60 centimeters in diameter and make the gravitational pull of the earth “disappear.” The artificial moon has one-sixth of the Earth’s gravity, and developing the ability to control it.
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Li Ruilin, a geotechnical engineer at the China University of Mining and Technology, told the South China Morning Post that the chamber, which will be filled with rocks and dust to imitate the lunar surface, is the “first of its kind in the world” and that it could maintain such low-gravity conditions for “as long as you want.”
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Apply an external magnetic field to those atoms, and everything changes: The electrons will modify their motion, producing their own magnetic field to oppose the applied field. If the external magnet is strong enough, the magnetic force of repulsion between it and the field of the atoms will grow powerful enough to overcome gravity and levitate the object — whether it’s an advanced piece of lunar tech or a confused amphibian — into the air.
The Artificial Moon facility, which will be officially launched in the coming months, can apparently make gravity “disappear” in an effect that can “last as long as you want” according to Li Ruilin, from the China University of Mining and Technology.
According to scientists, the Artificial Moon facility, which is built to augment China’s ongoing lunar exploration program, artificial moon will be used to extensively test technologies that the scientists plan to send to the moon.
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This will help scientists work out technical vulnerabilities in the expensive equipment and test the durability of instruments in a simulated lunar environment before the deployment of the actual missions.
Scientists behind the artificial moon research say that they were inspired by a 1997 experiment that used magnets to completely levitate a frog. A diamagnetic object, according to scientists, is repelled by magnetic fields. So, if a diamagnetic object is placed under a strong enough magnetic field, artificial moon repulsion can even balance gravity, levitating the object in the air and staying that way as a result.
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The Artificial Moon tests completed in the chamber will be used to inform China’s lunar exploration program Chang’e, which takes its name from the Chinese goddess of the moon. This initiative includes Chang’e 4, which landed a rover on the far side of the moon in 2019, and Chang’e 5, which retrieved rock samples from the moon’s surface in 2020. China has also declared that it will establish a lunar research station on the moon’s South Pole by 2029.