China is speeding up its space exploration effort with the launch of a Mars simulation camp.

It comes at a crucial time for China, which is eager to show off its progress in space research after being the first country to land a spacecraft on the moon's far side in January.

According to Reuters (via The New York Post), the settlement is known as China's "Mars Camp" because of its strangely eroded desert environment that resembles the surface of Mars. The Qaidam basin in western Qinghai's red rock area has been termed "the most Martian place on Earth." Experts said the scenery, rocks, sand, and even the temperatures are said to be comparable to those on Mars.

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(Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
JIUQUAN, CHINA - JUNE 17: The manned Shenzhou-12 spacecraft from China's Manned Space Agency onboard the Long March-2F rocket launches with three Chinese astronauts onboard at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 17, 2021, in Jiuquan, Gansu province, China. The crew of the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft will be carried on the Long March-2F rocket launched to the space station China is building from the Gobi Desert, marking the country's first manned mission in nearly five years.

China Builds Mars Simulation Camp to Help Understand Red Planet Better

The simulation camp opened in the town in 2019 with a facility aimed to help space enthusiasts and professionals better understand Mars through immersive simulation experiences. Scientists have used it to prepare for the exploration of Mars.

Local governments are growing the service industry and moving towards integrating scientific research, popularization of science, scientific education, and cultural tourism based on unique resources.

The "Mars Camp" is a 1,734-acre complex that includes a tourism center, a Mars colony, a simulation facility, and other facilities. At any given time, the site can hold up to 160 people. According to the South China Morning Post, the project cost around 150 million yuan (US$23 million). The facility also plans to attract 2 million visitors a year by 2030.

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China's Mars-Like Space Simulation Base Looks Like a Cross Between 'Star Wars' and '2001: A Space Odyssey.'

About 100 ecstatic Chinese teenagers concluded a five-hour tour in the facility in 2019.

The teenagers said they felt like they were like in a space colony set against a bleak landscape reminiscent of Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine - like the one in Star Wars.

"We saw the monolith, a crater and a cave. It's better than the Mars that I had imagined," then a 13-year-old student from Jinchang told Reuters.

In one of the most iconic images in Western cinematic history, a strange black monolith emerges before a tribe of man-apes in the African savannah in the 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The facility consists of many interlinked modules, including a greenhouse and a fake decompression chamber.

Mars Camp Partners With ACC to Make The Facility an Astronaut Training Center

Media business and officials in Gansu, a province in northwest China, came up with the idea for Mars Base 1 Camp. The camp covers roughly one-fifth of an American football field.

Officials hope that the camp, which is around 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the settlement of Jinchang, would enhance tourism and give tourists a sense of being on Mars.

In addition to serving as a tourist attraction, the camp has partnered with the Astronauts Center of China (ACC) to transform the facility into an astronaut training center.

The camp is not China's only Mars-themed attraction. China launched its first Mars "village" in March on the adjacent Qinghai-Tibet plateau.

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