The gleaming futuristic space base surrounded by otherworldly red soil may seem like a habitat on an alien world.
But the facility is actually located in the middle of The Gobi desert, the latest indication that China is taking the colonisation of Mars very seriously indeed.
Surrounded by barren hills in northwestern Gansu province, ‘Mars Base 1’ opened on Wednesday with the aim of introducing citizens to what life could be like on the Red Planet.
Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of overtaking the US in the race to plant the first extraterrestrial colony.
The desert reconstruction has a silver dome and nine modules, including living quarters, a control room, a greenhouse and an airlock.
Built at a cost of 50 million yuan (£5.73 million), the base will allow visitors go on treks in the desert, where they explore caves in the martian-like landscape.
On Wednesday, the first 100 students from a nearby high school were taken on to the arid Gobi plains, dressed in spacesuit-esque tracksuits.
Although currently an educational facility for schools, the company behind the project C-Space, plans to open it up to tourists next year, and will be adding a themed hotel and restaurant. Authorities are investing 2.5 billion yuan (£286 million) with the hope of attracting two million visitors a year by 2030.
Bai Fan, the founder of C-Space, said: “The base is still on earth, it's not on Mars, but we have chosen a landform that matches closest to Mars.”
It follows a similar Mars ‘village’ that opened last month in the Qaidam Basin of neighbouring Qinghai - a searingly hot desert region, which is considered to be the closest replica of Mars conditions on Earth.
But the C-Space project has faced criticism from scientists.
Jiao Weixin, a professor at the School of Earth and Space Sciences at Peking University, said the building and surrounding desert were not representative of the truly hostile conditions on Mars.
“From the very beginning, I've been opposed to this,” said Prof Jiao. “Tourism doesn't make much sense ... what is the meaning in it?”
China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, only the third country to do so after Russia and the US. It has put a pair of space stations into orbit and plans to launch a Mars rover in the mid-2020s
Earlier this year, it made the first ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon, deploying a rover on the surface, claiming it had ‘opened a new chapter in human lunar exploration.’
Next year, the superpower plans to begin building a manned space station on the lunar surface controlled by artificial intelligence robots until humans arrive.
While Beijing has said its ambitions are purely peaceful, the US has accused it of pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from accessing space-based assets in a crisis, and creating dominant military position in space.
China has already demonstrated its ability to shoot satellites out of the sky and in 2013 used a missile to destroy a spacecraft 22,000 miles up, a height once viewed as unreachable.
Shortly after becoming China’s leader in 2013, President Xi Jinping said "the space dream" would make the country stronger.