China plans to build its first Mars simulation base on the Tibetan plateau in the country’s northwest Qinghai Province as it aims to send the first mission to the red planet by 2020 to catch-up with India, US, and Russia. The base will be in the red cliff region in Da Qaidam (also known as Dachaidan) district in the Mongolian-Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Haixi. Haixi was chosen for its Mars-like landform, landscape, and climate, according to Wang Jingzhai, the prefecture’s Deputy Party Chief. The government of Haixi and the Chinese Academy of Sciences signed an agreement in November last year to build the base and have since begun discussing the project location.
The base, comprising a “Mars community” and a “Mars campsite,” will be turned into China’s first cultural and tourist experience base for space and astronomical education, Mars-themed tourism, scientific research and film shooting, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. China aims to launch a Mars probe around 2020 to carry out orbiting and roving exploration, followed by a second mission that would include a collection of surface samples from the red planet, according to an official white paper ‘China’s Space Activities in 2016’.
China looks to catch up with India, US, and Russia in sending probes to Mars. The base might also include a set of shooting films and TV shows, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported earlier. The government showed off images last year depicting its future orbiter, lander, and rover – designed to explore the surface of the Red Planet.