China has created an artificial 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 centimetres in diameter and make the gravitational pull of the earth “disappear.” The moon has one-sixth of the Earth’s gravity, and developing the ability to control it, despite Earth’s omnipresent gravitational pull, is a significant achievement that can help scientists with future missions to the moon. However, because of the small size of the chamber, it cannot be used to train astronauts. Currently, NASA trains astronauts for microgravity situations in high-altitude parabolic flights.
The newly built research facility in China can maintain low-gravity conditions for “as long as you want,” Li Ruilin, a geotechnical engineer working at the China University of Mining and Technology, told South China Morning Post. According to Ruilin, the chamber will be filled with rocks and dust to totally simulate the lunar surface, an experiment that Ruilin believed is the “first of its kind in the world.”
According to scientists, the facility, which is built to augment China’s ongoing lunar exploration program, will be used to extensively test technologies that the scientists plan to send to the moon. 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 research say that they were inspired by a 1997 experiment that used magnets to completely levitate a frog. According to the original research, most of the ordinary material including human beings exhibit weak diamagnetism. A diamagnetic object, according to scientists, is repelled by magnetic fields. So, if a diamagnetic object is placed under a strong enough magnetic field, its repulsion can even balance gravity, levitating the object in the air and staying that way as a result.
The 1997 experiment, conducted by a Dutch-British Physicist Andre Geim, was awarded the satirical Ig Nobel Prize 2000. Ig Nobel Prize is awarded for unusual scientific achievements.