China builds 'artificial moon' to experiment with gravity
Chinese scientists have built a "artificial moon" research structure that will enable them to simulate low-gravity environments using magnetism.
The facility will use strong magnetic fields inside a 60-centimeter-diameter vacuum chamber to cause gravity to "disappear." The scientists were inspired by a previous experiment that used magnets to lift a frog up.
Li Ruilin, a geotechnical engineer at China University of Mining and Technology, told the South China Morning Post that the room, which will be filled with rocks and dust to mimic the lunar surface, is "the first of its kind in the world." and that it can maintain such low gravity conditions for "as long as you want".
Scientists plan to use the facility to test the technology in long low-gravity environments before it is sent to the Moon, where gravity is only one-sixth of its power on Earth.
According to researchers, the inspiration for the room came from Andre Geim, a physicist at the University of Manchester in the UK, who won the satirical Ig Nobel Prize in 2000 for inventing an experiment that made a frog swim with a magnet.