BRASILIA, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Brazil's Vice President Hamilton Mourao on Wednesday inaugurated a new $100 million Antarctic base, built by Chinese company CEIEC to replace the Brazilian research station destroyed by fire almost seven years ago.
"Brazil is back in the Antarctic with great force," Science and Technology Minister Marcos Pontes, Brazil's only astronaut, wrote in a Twitter message from the Comandante Ferraz base on King George Island off the Antarctic peninsula.
Pontes said the new 4,500-square-meter (48,375-sq-foot)facility was bigger and safer, with 17 laboratories, a heliport, and other advances. Scientists will use the base to study microbiology, glaciers, and climate, among other areas.
Brazil's Antarctic program began in 1982 when the Brazilian Navy acquired a Danish icebreaker and made its first expedition, rushing to become a party to the Antarctic Treaty that would decide the continent's future.
But Brazil's program was set back in 2012 when an explosion in the generator room caused a fire that killed two naval officers and destroyed 70% of the building.