Welcome to Mars on Earth

It looks a lot like the red planet, dry and desolate, but it is not a million miles away.

China's Mars Base 1 Camp is actually in the barren, windswept hills of northern Gansu province, with the Gobi Desert as its backdrop.

The Mars simulation base, which opened on Wednesday, comprises several interconnected modules, including a greenhouse and a mock decompression chamber.

It welcomed about 100 excited Chinese teenagers on opening day.

Conceived by a media company and local officials, the facility is meant to boost tourism in the area.

Plans are also set to expand the Mars camp in the coming years, with the aim of attracting two million visitors a year by 2030.

China's space programme, with its recent lunar probe landing, has captured the imagination of the Chinese people.

The country is also developing powerful rockets to send a probe to Mars in 2020.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2019, with the headline 'Welcome to Mars on Earth'. Print Edition | Subscribe