• The Shenzhou 11 manned spacecraft at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

The Shenzhou 11 manned spacecraft at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. (Photo : Getty Images)

The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, located beyond Jiayuguan and along the Ruoshui River, is one of three places in the world where people are blasted into space. Foreign media are usually not allowed to enter this site, but thanks to the Shenzhou 11 mission blastoff, they are given the exception and the rare opportunity to explore the space city.

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The satellite launch center began in 1956 wherein Mao Zhedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, planned to match both the U.S. and the Soviet Union’s technology when it comes to the space game.

Aside from being a launch center, it is also has an attached military base to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

A total of six manned flights already took off from this launch center and there are plans in the future for manned flights to the moon and Mars.

Besides the manned flights, the center also launched the world’s first quantum communications satellite and other important Chinese machines. There are also unannounced launches as decided by the government and the military.

Security is tight around the launch center. Strict schedules are organized up to the minute and there are reminders not to wander around restricted areas.

Upon passing the final checkpoint, the visitors were greeted with clean avenues with unused rockets wherein government-approved visitors can take pictures. Although the city is not that populated, pedestrian lanes, cops and speed cameras are present in the area.

As the blastoff of Shenzhou 11 approaches, two Chinese astronauts bid farewell. A troupe that consists of men and women marched into position and the military brass band played patriotic songs as the crowd sang with their hearts.

The Nanfang Daily, the official Guangdong Communist Party newspaper, reported that there are approximately 35,000 people that are living in the residential zone of the launch center. Since operations are sensitive in the area, government officials refuse to verify and answer questions regarding the site.