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To catch up with India in Space, China plans Mars probe

China plans to build its first Mars simulation base on the Tibetan plateau in the country's northwest as it aims to send the first mission to the red planet by 2020 to catch-up with the US, India and Russia.

An agreement to build a "Mars village" at Haixi prefecture in Qinghai province, a part of the Tibetan plateau located next to Tibet Autonomous Region, was signed yesterday, state-run China News Service reported.

The region on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau is known for its sharp ridges and mounds of rock - known as yardangs - formed over the centuries by wind erosion. They mirror similar features found on the arid surface of Mars.

The project will incorporate education, tourism, scientific research and simulation training, Hong-Kong based South China Morning Post reported.

China aims to launch a Mars probe around 2020 to carry out orbiting and roving exploration, followed by a second mission that would include collection of surface samples from the red planet, according to an official white paper 'China's Space Activities in 2016'.

China looks to catch up with India, the US, Russia and the European Union in sending probes to Mars.

The base might also include a set for shooting films and TV shows, the report quoted a local government statement as saying.

Liu Xiaoqun, an official involved in space exploration at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the base would contribute to local tourism in Qinghai.

The facility, composed of a "Mars community" and a "Mars camp", will provide tourists with a unique scientific and cultural experience, the report said.

The government showed off images last year depicting its future orbiter, lander and rover - designed to explore the surface of the red planet.China to build first Mars simulation base near Tibet.


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