Rumors are swirling about a secretive Chinese space station built deep in Argentina’s Patagonia region.
In 2012, leaders in Beijing and Buenos Aires inked a deal to build the so-called “Deep Space Station,” and the facility is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.
While Argentina and China have said that “the ground station in the Southern Hemisphere to support the program for moon exploration and other space activities,” there is a concern among some that the Chinese facility may have a more military purpose. During the recent presidential election, the winner, Mauricio Macri, claimed that he would make public the "secret clauses" that have been rumored to have been added to the agreement.
"This agreement will allow China to count ... with a ground station in the Southern Hemisphere to support the program for moon exploration and other space activities," an Argentine embassy in Beijing said in an e-mail to the Global Times back in 2012. "On the other hand, Argentina will share the use of the facilities for the benefit of its own space program.”
Unlike the other space station in the South American country – an antenna in Argentina's central-west Mendoza province built by the European Space Agency – the Chinese facility will be operated by the country’s military, political analyst Rosendo Fraga, director of the consulting firm New Majority told the BBC.
Officials in China have said that while military personnel would be running it, the facility would be "totally civilian, and it is not operated by military personnel.”
The intended use of the giant antennae at the station is supposed to monitor the moon – as China has ambitions of sending people to the earth’s only satellite – but some speculate that it could serve a dual purpose of watching celestial bodies and also intercepting signals from other nation’s satellites.
Despite the speculation,China has not given out much information to the public about the remote facility and its operations.
Argentina’s Patagonia region, however, seems like an ideal location for a space facility as the area is relatively flat and remote, but can still be accessed by roads.
"There has to be a place connected with roads and optical fiber but in turn it also has to be isolated,” Felix Menicocci, the Secretary General of the National Space Commission (CONAE) of Argentina told the BBC.
Relations between China and Argentina were cozy during the administration of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner but have become somewhat strained since Macri replaced her as president in December.
Earlier in the week, Argentina's navy sank a Chinese fishing boat that it claimed was fishing illegally in international waters.