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A futuristic simulation of a Chinese Mars mission has opened in the Gobi Desert

Quartz logo Quartz 17/04/2019 Johnny Simon
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China’s propensity for over-the-top amusement parks and gimmicky tourists destinations is well-documented. 

Students approach the C-Space Project Mars simulation base in the Gobi Desert outside Jinchang, Gansu Province, China, on April 17. © Reuters/Thomas Peter Students approach the C-Space Project Mars simulation base in the Gobi Desert outside Jinchang, Gansu Province, China, on April 17.

While some seem like more of a dare, like a giant glass-bottom bridge suspended over a deep canyon, many of China’s tourist traps are designed to transport the visitor, whether it be to Europe or back centuries of Chinese history.

a person standing next to a truck: A staff member sets up a sign in the shape of a space suit. © Reuters/Thomas Peter A staff member sets up a sign in the shape of a space suit.

Add Mars to that list. Recently opened in Gansu province, and set among the orange backdrop of the Gobi Desert, C-Space Project Mars simulates a speculative Chinese-led mission to the red planet.

A staff member demonstrates how she puts on the helmet of a mock space suit. © Reuters/Thomas Peter A staff member demonstrates how she puts on the helmet of a mock space suit.

China has shown grand ambitions for space travel. It successfully dropped a lander and rover on the far side of the moon in December, and it plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020.

The interior of a mock space capsule at the C-Space Project Mars simulation base. © Reuters/Thomas Peter The interior of a mock space capsule at the C-Space Project Mars simulation base.

Much like how the rugged Hawaiian landscape has been used as a testing grounds for future missions, the Gobi’s dusty red topography is a decent stand-in for Mars.

a man standing next to a building: A staff member looks into a mock space capsule. © Reuters/Thomas Peter A staff member looks into a mock space capsule.

But while the HI-SEAS project is real research conducted by a university, C-Space seems to be more in the realm of speculative science fiction, aimed at the imaginations of school groups and tourists.

a large orange train: A dining room in the simulation base. © Reuters/Thomas Peter A dining room in the simulation base.

Reuters visited the site of the project, which currently occupies a plot about the size of a football field.

a building with a mountain in the desert: A mock space capsule of the C-Space Project Mars simulation base is seen at dusk in the Gobi Desert outside Jinchang, Gansu Province, China. © Reuters/Thomas Peter A mock space capsule of the C-Space Project Mars simulation base is seen at dusk in the Gobi Desert outside Jinchang, Gansu Province, China.

The developers have lofty goals, to the tune of a multibillion-yuan investment, with the plan of it occupying 26 sq miles (67 sq km), Reuters reports. 

Gallery: Staggering images of Mars like you've never seen before (PocketLint)

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