100 lucky teens got to spend a day on the barren hills of north-central Gansu Province, a place where they can experience life on the red planet without leaving Earth. This is the first of many campaigns

“The Mars base 1 camp has nine capsules including an airlock room, a control room and a bio-module room which were all designed to support astronauts living on Mars,” said Guo Jiayu, a Guide at Mars Base 1 Camp. 

Stirring the imaginations of young people is the goal of the Mars simulation base camp, the brainchild of a Chinese media company and Gansu officials.

“Space exploration is very far from the lives of ordinary people,” said Bai Fan, the CEO at Jinchang Star Universe Culture & Tourism Investment Co. “We hope the simulation bases will let them feel the spirit of space exploration, and not just experience the technology behind it.”

That spirit is behind China’s “Space Dream”, the country’s goal becomes a world leader in outer space by 2049.

Young volunteers are also sowing the seeds of that dream inside a simulated space lab, observing how plants and animals can co-exist in a lunar environment. 

“This project gives us a better understanding of what it’s like to live and conduct explorations on the moon over a longer period of time,” said Wang Jun at the Chinese Academy of Engineering. “We’ll also need this kind of system if we go to Mars.

Liu Hong, the Chief Designer of the Yuegong-1, a research facility aimed at putting Chinese people on the moon, says young people dream big and are unafraid of taking risks.

Hu Zhenyu, is one of those risk-takers. He’s China’s youngest space entrepreneur at 26.

Hu heads Linkspace, a start-up which successfully performed a vertical takeoff and landing test twice in two months. He believes these short launches are the first steps in a new business model in the space industry: sending small satellites into orbit at a fraction of the price of traditional rockets.

“When the rocket changes from one-off to one that can be reused, the launching cost and reliability are altered and optimized,” Hu said. We think that this is the essential skill for private companies to survive in this industry in the coming three to five years.”

Back at the Mars camp in Gansu province, where a large number of people live in deep poverty, organizers say these programs are key to spreading the word about space early on, and the message that nothing is out of reach. 

“We hope the base can inspire young people to look up at the stars and achieve their dreams,” Bai said. 

Leroy Chiao, Co-Founder, and CEO of OneOrbit, a training, and space education company, talked with CGTN’s Elaine Reyes on space education.

MORE ON SPACE: Neil Armstrong Space Exploration Gallery opens at the Cincinnati Museum