13:20 GMT30 May 2020
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    China will commence the construction of its first airfield in the Antarctic by the end of the year.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — China has completed a surveying mission and has picked a site close to the Zhongshan Station for starting construction this year, China Daily reported Wednesday, citing a press conference held by Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC) Deputy Director Sun Bo.

    The Xue Long icebreaker returned home on Tuesday, carrying the 256-strong 33rd Antarctic expedition crew that left for the Earth's southernmost latitudes in early November.

    "At first the airfield will have only one runway, so the construction will be easy, we will only need to flatten the selected area and maintain it. Fixed-wing aircraft will need to be equipped with a pair of runners so they can land," Sun told the newspaper.

    Construction will be kicked off by the 34th expedition, he added, stressing that the planned airfield will greatly aid China's Arctic exploration efforts. The initial airstrip will later be followed by a number of other airstrips which will be flatter and will accommodate larger aircraft.

    China currently has four research stations in the Antarctic but does not have an airstrip to supply these by air. The decision to build the airfield was taken in 2014 and the 31st expedition started surveying work to find an appropriate site using a drone.


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