We can build really big things in space.
Okay, not that big - yet.
But we've packed the Earth's lower orbit
with about 5,000 satellites -
some still functioning and some not.
What if we could build a bigger,
and put it into Earth's lower orbit?
Something that would reflect
so much sunlight
that we'd never have to turn our lights on again.
The largest satellite we've put into lower orbit,
the International Space Station,
is as long as a football field.
We assembled it in pieces in several launches,
and now it's revolving around the Earth
some 400 km (250 mi) above us.
How would we launch an artificial moon
that's ten times bigger than that,
and position it high above the Earth's surface?
Most of the Earth's satellites in low orbit
are operating just above the ISS.
Some of them are parked
in geostationary orbit,
about 35,000 km (22,000 mi)
above the Earth’s equator.
The real Moon revolves around us
from a distance of 380,000 km (236,000 mi) away.
But we don't need to put our artificial moon that far away.
We'd place it somewhere between the Earth and the ISS.
That's a good spot right there.
We'd have to make sure it maintains a speed of 27,400 km/h (17,000 mph).
Otherwise, it falls back to Earth.
We'd cover its surface
with some highly reflective material
so that it could bounce the light from the Sun back at us.
Then, we'd turn off our lights
and enjoy bright nights all year long.
If you're not into falling asleep with the lights on,
you'd need to get some very dark blinds for your bedroom.
Too bad animals wouldn't have the same option.
This new moon might cause havoc for nocturnal creatures
who rely on moonlight to mate,
Too much light at night could mess around with your body too,
leading to obesity and a higher chance of heart disease,
diabetes and depression.
The artificial moon would also obscure the view of the natural sky.
Ground-based telescopes wouldn't be able to capture
images of deep space.
It could result in us giving up on our dreams
to go to distant stars -
imprisoning us on Earth forever.
Wait for it...
Some sources have reported
that Chinese space engineers are already working on it.
Their moon would be not just ten,
but eighty times bigger that the ISS.
It would shine 8 times brighter than the natural Moon,
and it would supposedly save them
$173 million/year in electricity bills.
However, we haven't seen the actual plans
or a development strategy, so...
don't be upset if an artificial moon
doesn't appear in the sky sometime soon.
We still like our natural, beautiful Moon
that we could colonize and
use as a cosmic airport for future space travel.
But that's a story for another WHAT IF.