To cut greenhouse gases, solve the energy crisis and fight smog, scientists in China are taking to an orbit around the Earth a solar power station 36,000 kilometers above ground, Xinhua reported.
If the project mterialises, it would surpass the scale of the Apollo project and the International Space Station, and emerge as the largest-ever space project.
This futuristic project is essentially a super spacecraft on a geosynchronous orbit equipped with huge solar panels. The power station would convert the generated electricity to microwaves or lasers and transmit it to a collector on earth.
The idea of a power station had been in the realm of science fiction for decades. In 1941, US science fiction writer Isaac Asimov published the short story Reason, in which a space station transmitted energy collected from the sun to various planets using microwave beams.
According to Wang Xiji, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and a member of the International Academy of Astronautics, Asimov's fiction had sound scientific basis.
In an article published in the journal Science in 1968, US scientist Peter Glaser claimed a feasible design for the space solar power system.
According to Wang, 93, who had devoted over 50 years to space technology research, an economically viable space power station would be really huge, with the total area of the panels reaching 5 to 6 sq kms.
That would equal the scale of 12 times Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world, or nearly twice the New York Central Parks. Wang added people on earth might see it in the sky at night, like a star.
Wang points out that electricity generated from the ground-based solar plants fluctuated at night and during the day and with the weather, but a space generator collected energy 99 per cent of the time.
According to Wang whoever obtained the technology first "could occupy the future energy market'' and the technology therefore, had ''great strategic significance."
Countries such as the US and Japan had studied space solar power station and Japan had gained leadership in the development of wireless power transmission technology.
However, many hurdles lie ahead, not the least being weight, which at an estimated 10,000 tons was beyond the capacity of most rockets that can carry a payload of over 100 tons to low earth orbit.