Lonely Planet Writer

China is going to build a Mars simulation base in its far western desert

Tourists will soon be able to see what it’s like to live on Mars…in western China. Plans were announced this week to build a Mars simulation base in the desert of Qinghai, a remote province in the country’s far northwest.

Mars Village planned for China
China to build Mars simulator in Qinghai desert. Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

The base, known as ‘Mars Village’, will incorporate educational, scientific and touristic elements, including a ‘community’ area and a ‘campsite’. Authorities said there may also be a TV and film set for sci-fi productions.

Mars Village will be located in Haixi prefecture, in a geological area known as the Qaidam Basin. Located on the northeast side of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the area is a high-altitude desert with climatic and topographical conditions that researchers felt were suitable to simulating what a human experience on Mars might be like. In particular, the area’s pointed and unusually-shaped, eroded rock formations, known as yardang, appear similar to those found on Mars.

Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. Image by Kevin Frayer
Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. Image by: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The announcement comes as China’s space programme continues to expand. Last year, the Chinese space agency vowed to put a probe on Mars by 2020 and released mock-up images of the country’s planned Mars exploration rover. In May of this year, a group of Chinese postgraduate students began a year-long study living inside a lunar simulation pod.