China to build first Mars base simulator in Qinghai province near Tibet

Qaidam Basin. Image courtesy of NASA.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences has announced that China’s first Mars base simulator will be built at the Qaidam Basin area in Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai province, in south-western China. The simulator will prepare China for a manned Mars landing, projected to take place between 2040s-2060s.

Located on the Tibetan plateau, Qaidam Basin has long been called the “Red Cliff” area for its altitude and landscape, and was selected for its resemblance to Mars.

By studying the Qaidam Basin environment and mineral composition, Chinese researchers believe they will glean some knowledge of Mars’ past. For example, part of the basin is largely desert, and a large area consists of a huge amount of salt deposits from dried-up lakes. It is believed that studying these will give insight into water on Mars.

China’s Mars base simulator will be a small one, and will simulate the atmospheric composition, pressure, temperature, light and other conditions on Mars. It will be used as a laboratory to facilitate research currently being conducted in other parts of China, such as a study by Shandong University examining the effects of perchlorate, a poisonous chemical that is prevalent on Mars

In addition, the simulator will also help scientists and engineers understand the requirements for space travel to Mars. Examples of this include the effects of a long spaceflight combined with a Mars landing, the effects of dust on Mars, and the types of clothing needed for Mars.

This will be the second extraterrestrial base simulator built by China. At the moment, a group of volunteers are staying in China’s moon simulator, Yuegong-1, as part of an experiment studying the effects of living on the Moon.

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