About 25 miles from Jinchang, in a corner of the Gobi desert in northern China, covering an area about one-fifth of an American football field, Mars Base 1 is part science academy, part tourist attraction.
It’s like a space colony. The facility, comprising several interconnected modules including a greenhouse and a mock decompression chamber, opened its doors to the public on Wednesday. Officials hope the camp will boost tourism and allow visitors to feel as though they are on the red planet. They have a plan to invest 2.5 billion yuan ($374 million) to expand the site to 67 sq km (26 square miles) and attract 2 million visitors a year by 2030.
China is developing powerful rockets to help realize a more ambitious dream of sending a probe to Mars in 2020. “A nation needs people who look up at the stars,” said Bai Fan, CEO of Jinchang Star Universe Culture & Tourism Investment Co. Apart from being a tourist attraction, the camp has collaborated with the Astronauts Center of China (ACC) to eventually turn the facility into an astronaut-training center. On the other part, inside the limits of the accessible reality, China is developing powerful rockets to help realize a more ambitious dream of sending a probe to Mars in 2020.