A small step for China: Mars base for teens opens in desert

A guide wearing a space suit stands at an entrance to "Mars Base 1" in the Gobi desert in China
A guide wearing a space suit stands at an entrance to "Mars Base 1" in the Gobi desert in China
In the middle of China's Gobi desert sits a Mars base simulator, but instead of housing astronauts training to live on the Red Planet, the facility is full of teenagers on a school trip.

Surrounded by barren hills in northwestern Gansu province, "Mars Base 1" opened on Wednesday with the aim of exposing teens—and soon tourists—to what life could be like on the planet.

The facility's unveiling comes as China is making progress in its efforts to catch up to the United States and become a space power, with ambitions of sending humans to the moon someday.

The white-coloured base has a silver dome and nine modules, including living quarters, a control room, a greenhouse and an airlock.

Built at a cost of 50 million yuan ($7.47 million), the base was constructed with help from the Astronauts Centre of China and the China Intercontinental Communication Centre, a state television production organisation.

The teenagers go on treks in the desert, where they explore caves in the martian-like landscape. The closest town is Jinchang, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) away.

On Wednesday, over 100 students from a nearby high school walked on the arid Gobi plains, dressed in spacesuit-esque tracksuits.

"There are so many things here that I've not seen before, I'm very interested in it," said 12-year old Tang Ruitian.

The white-coloured base has a silver dome and nine modules, including living quarters, a control room, a greenhouse and an airlo
The white-coloured base has a silver dome and nine modules, including living quarters, a control room, a greenhouse and an airlock

'Closest to Mars'

The company behind the project, C-Space, plans to open the base—currently an educational facility—to tourists in the next year, complete with a themed hotel and restaurant to attract space geeks.

"We are trying to come up with solutions ... the base is still on earth, it's not on Mars, but we have chosen a landform that matches closest to Mars," C-Space founder Bai Fan told AFP.

It follows a similar Mars "village" that opened last month in the Qaidam Basin of neighbouring Qinghai—a brutally hot and dry region which is the highest desert in the world, considered the best replica of Mars' surface conditions.

As budding astronauts explore "Mars" on Earth, China is planning to send a probe to the real Red Planet next year.

  • The teenagers don spacesuits and go on treks in the desert, where they can explore caves in the martian-like landscape
    The teenagers don spacesuits and go on treks in the desert, where they can explore caves in the martian-like landscape
  • Models of Mars rovers are seen at "Mars Base 1", in China's northwest Gansu province
    Models of Mars rovers are seen at "Mars Base 1", in China's northwest Gansu province

Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022.

Earlier this year, it made the first ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, deploying a rover on the surface.

But the C-Space project has faced criticism from some quarters of the scientific community.

Jiao Weixin, a professor at the School of Earth and Space Sciences at Peking University, said the building and surrounding desert were hardly representative of the truly hostile conditions on Mars.

To truly replicate the harsh, toxic conditions of Mars would be to create a truly hostile environment, which is expensive and "completely unnecessary", he said.

"From the very beginning, I've been opposed to this," Jiao told AFP. "Tourism doesn't make much sense ... what is the meaning in it?"


Explore further

China plans to land probes on far side of moon, Mars by 2020

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Apr 17, 2019
Many Navies & Merchant Marines, have for centuries run similar training programs to prepare young men for shipboard service.

This is a good start for China.
The next step for those who pass this level?
Would be training aboard submersibles & submerged structures.
For marine engineering & construction experience.
While in hardsuits.
Learning of the importance of strict safety regulations & rigorous environmental maintenance.

Apr 17, 2019
@rrwillsj: Dude, it's just space camp. I spent a week at the one in Huntsville Alabama when I was 12. It was just summer camp with a space theme. While it was interesting and fun, it didn't prepare me for a life as an astronaut. It's just a fun way to spur public interest in space.

Apr 17, 2019
Whys. why not wiseup.
You don't think the wiseguys running the Chinese Space Program haven't the smarts to at least considered the possibility?

If you had the opportunity when you were at space camp? Wouldn't you have at least considered to taking advanced courses if those had been made available?

Honestly, I was a pretty useless kid. But I wore out reading Heinlein's so-called juveniles.

& you haven't considered the strategic value of cadet/midshipman/artificer training. First to bolster military & merchant marine cadet programs for officer & specialized skilled technology ranks. Breaking them in early.

One of the ambitions for China is a competitive space program which needs to start years in advance of need.

There are a hundred million young peasants to be trained to use & maintain basic machinery.
There are tens of millions of young proletarians to be educated to use & maintain modern technology.

- cont'd -

Apr 17, 2019
- cont'd -
From space camp to submersible camp.
Human nature is a muddled mess.
Here is a cheap way to filter who can adapt to long-term enclosed encironments without falling apart?

Not a failure, not to be wasted. Instead there will always be a need to training for commercial & surface navy or support ships & shore installations.

Then the next step is to discover who can endure working trapped in a hardsuit in a dangerous environment.
Again, washing out means they put your education & training to another use.

For instance, I would have washed out at this step. Due to childhood infection that damaged my inner-ear.
Found that out when I tried to sign-up for SCUBA training.

Okay, your cadet tech or artificer got this far & hasn't been dragooned by the military or State Oil Industry?
& after all the DI crap pounded into them?
They are still willing to go into Outer Space?
Without having to slip them a Mickey Finn to get their scrawl on the sign-up forms?
Recruiter Bonus!

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