China's "Planetary Defense System" has been catching momentum recently, with Beijing researchers now planning to utilize the moon to protect Earth from asteroid strikes that could potentially wipe out a city or even human civilization, according to scientists involved in the project.
Two optical telescopes would be built on the moon’s south and north poles to survey the space around them for any threats that may have slipped through the ground-based early warning network, especially those approaching from the blind side facing the sun.
The new project entails putting three guardian satellites carrying loads of fuel and kinetic weapons into the moon’s orbit around the Earth, Wu Weiren, chief designer of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, said in a paper published in the Chinese peer-reviewed journal Scientia Sinica Informationis.
When the system detects an asteroid with the potential to cause severe damage, it sends one or all of the guardian satellites to intercept it within a short timeframe, as short as a week – faster than what any large rocket launched from Earth could achieve, according to the team.
“It will have the ability to intercept incoming asteroids from all directions, and can form a defense circle about twice the distance between the moon and Earth – about 800,000 km. in diameter,” Wu and his colleagues said.
“It will have the ability to intercept incoming asteroids from all directions, and can form a defense circle about twice the distance between the moon and Earth – about 800,000 km. in diameter.”Wu Weiren and his research team
China's Earth Defense System, currently under development, consists of giant radars and telescopes in an attempt to prevent an extinction event such as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago.
But before breaking ground on the moon, China would first launch satellites into the moon’s orbit to test their latest surveillance, tracking and interception technologies.
These satellites could, potentially, be used to defend China’s national security by having the telescopes and sensors pointed toward the Earth, the researchers suggested.
They "have the ability to monitor the geosynchronous orbit," a high-altitude belt hosting many communications and military satellites, they said in the paper.The Earth-defending satellites could help China keep a close eye on other countries’ satellites “and improve the ability to protect high-value space assets”.
A growing space power
China has become a growing space power, making ever-increasing effort in recent years to improve its capabilities in space. So far, China has launched new satellites, landed probes on the moon and explored its dark side, and even constructed its own space station.
Nasa administrator Bill Nelson said earlier this month he was concerned about the possibility that China would take over the moon, though Beijing has denied this and dismissed these claims.