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China has opened a Mars simulation center in Mangya city, in the Northwest Qinghai Province. Part tourist attraction, part training center, the simulations site is comprised of a series of buildings where visitors can come taste life on the red planet. Qinghai Province is famous for its Mars-like landscape of reddish rocks and barren plains. Construction on the simulation base began last June and was opened last week to a curious public.
The base is made up of a “Mars community” and a “Mars camp”. Visitors will be able to take part in tasks related to daily life on Mars such as growing food and maintaining the power supply. Owners of the base hope that it will also be a place for serious scientific investigation and simulation training.
Mars is hard to make on Earth
Total costs for the base exceeded $22 million. Jiao Weixin, a space science professor at Peking University, told the Global Times that despite the best efforts of the simulators founders, it is almost impossible to replicate life on Mars on Earth. Mars has a particularly special and incredibly hostile environment that includes low air pressure, strong radiation and frequent sandstorms, as well as vast differences in geography.
China is forging ahead in space exploration and it plans to launch a replacement for the ISS in 2022. Called Tiangong, or "Heavenly Palace", the Earth orbiting space station will consist of two additional modules for scientific experiments and the whole station will be partly powered by solar panels.
Hawaii home to Mars like dome
This is just one of many ambitious plans the Chinese government is currently backing. The new base camp in China isn’t the only Marssimulator in the world.
Hawaii is home to HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation), a habitat on an isolated Mars-like site on the Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii. HI-SEAS is a unique training and simulation space that mimics life on Mars or other planetary exploration missions.
It’s isolation and design mean very long term experiments can be carried out there. Its last mission in early 2018 saw four young scientists enter the geodesic dome for 8 months to undergo experiment on human psychology and behavior in isolation.
Podcast gives insight into isolated life
The most famous mission in 2015 saw six young people enter the dome for a year. The experiment was chronicled in the Gimlet media podcast, The Habitat. The docu-series podcast was told through the voices of the six brave professionals who said goodbye to their friends and family for a year and went to ‘space’ for the sake of science.
Manned missions to space are becoming a priority for both government and private space exploration companies around the globe. Domination in the field may have huge political implications in the future.