China is to build its first base to simulate conditions living on Mars in a desert area deep in the country’s northwest, state media reported.
An agreement to build a “Mars village” at Haixi prefecture in Qinghai province was signed on Tuesday, according to the China News Service.
The region on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau is known for its sharp ridges and mounds of rock – known as yardangs – formed over centuries by wind erosion. They mirror similar features found on the arid surface of the Red Planet.
The project will incorporate education, tourism, scientific research and simulation training, according to a December statement on the website of the Haixi government.
The base might also include a set for shooting films and TV shows, the statement said.
Liu Xiaoqun, an official involved in space exploration at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the base would contribute to local tourism in Qinghai.
The facility, composed of a “Mars community” and a “Mars camp,” will provide tourists with a unique scientific and cultural experience, according to the report.
China’s ambitious space programme includes plans to launch a Mars probe in 2020.
The government showed off images last year depicting its future orbiter, lander and rover – designed to explore the surface of the Red Planet.
Other countries have set up bases to simulate living on Mars, or the journey to the Red Planet.
A study funded by Nasa allowed six researchers to live in a mockup Mars habitat in Hawaii for a year from August 2015.
A group of volunteers, including a Chinese citizen, lived in a mock spaceship in Moscow for 520 days beginning in 2010, the estimated time needed to travel from Earth to Mars and back.