China builds artificial moon like facility

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China builds artificial moon like facility

  • China has built an artificial moon research facility that is capable of lowering the gravity level using magnetism.
  • The idea is to make gravity “disappear” by using powerful magnetic fields inside a 60cm vacuum chamber.
  • The research facility is scheduled to officially launch later this year.

About the facility

  • China plans to use this research facility to test out instruments and technology in a low-gravity environment similar to that of the moon, and see whether its experiments can be successful on the lunar surface.
  • The research facility is also expected to help in determining the possibility of human settlement on the moon.
  • To make the artificial moon facility feel more like the lunar surface, it will be filled with rocks and dust.
  • Scientists plan to use the 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.
  • This 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.
  • Not just an artificial moon but China has successfully created an “artificial sun” which is a nuclear fusion reactor that superheated to a temperature five times hotter than the sun and for over 17 minutes.
  • This artificial sun will eventually help create the source of near-unlimited clean energy to power cities.

Working mechanism

  • According to the researchers, the inspiration for the chamber came from Andre Geim, a physicist at the University of Manchester in the U.K. who won the satirical Ig Nobel Prize in 2000 for devising an experiment that made a frog float with a magnet.
  • The levitation trick used by Geim and now in the artificial-moon chamber comes from an effect called diamagnetic levitation.
  • Atoms are made up of atomic nuclei and tiny electrons that orbit them in little loops of current; these moving currents, in turn, induce tiny magnetic fields.
  • Usually, the randomly oriented magnetic fields of all the atoms in an object, whether they belong to a drop of water or a frog, cancel out, and no material-wide magnetism manifests.
  • Apply an external magnetic field to those atoms, however, 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.

China’s Lunar programme

  • China has an ongoing moon mission called the “Chinese Lunar Exploration Program” under which its current rover and lander Chang'e 4 is exploring the lunar surface.
  • The rover recently made history by detecting water in real time on the moon.
  • China also plans to launch a lunar research station on the moon’s south pole by 2029.