China’s ambitions in space are growing

NATTY yellow carts whizz tourists around Wenchang space port, a sprawling launch site on the tropical island of Hainan. The brisk tour passes beneath an enormous poster of Xi Jinping, China’s president, then disgorges passengers for photographs not far from a skeletal launch tower. Back at the visitor centre there is a small exhibition featuring space suits, a model moon-rover and the charred husk of a re-entry capsule that brought Chinese astronauts back from orbit. A gift shop at the exit sells plastic rockets, branded bottle openers and cuddly alien mascots.

The base in a township of Wenchang city is the newest of China’s four space-launch facilities. It is also by far the easiest to visit—thanks in part to the enthusiasm of officials in Hainan, a haven for tourists and rich retirees. Wenchang’s local government has adopted a logo for the city reminiscent of Starfleet badges in “Star Trek”. It is building a space-themed tourist village near the launch site, with attractions that…Continue reading


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