Image: Rocket at industry fair
Liu Jin  /  AFP - Getty Images file
Local visitors walk past a Long March CZ-2F rocket at the Shanghai International Industry Fair in November.
updated 1/9/2004 9:01:15 PM ET 2004-01-10T02:01:15

China will launch its next crew-carrying spacecraft next year, and it will bear more than one astronaut, a newspaper said Friday, nearly three months after the nation’s first manned space shot was completed successfully.

China also congratulated the United States on Friday for successfully landing a robotic Mars probe and, following reports of U.S. plans to create a moon base and a human Mars trip, expressed hope that space exploration “will continuously achieve new progress.”

In October, Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei became a national hero when he returned from a one-day orbital mission in Shenzhou 5. It made China the third country in the world to successfully accomplish manned spaceflight. On the same day, the country announced plans for a space station.

Plans for Shenzhou 6
On Friday the Chengdu Evening News in western China’s Sichuan province said the next spacecraft, Shenzhou 6, would carry more than one person and would stay more than one day in space.

The online edition of People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s official newspaper, picked up the Chengdu story, which cited Huang Chunping, general director of Shenzhou 5.

The newspaper covers the space program closely because a key aerospace company is located in Chengdu, and one of China’s rocket-launching bases is nearby.

“The successful launch of Shenzhou 5 not only boosted national pride but injected confidence into the research of the next spacecraft. Shenzhou 6 will carry more than one astronaut and stay more than one day in space,” People’s Daily said, citing Huang.

China says it also expects to launch 10 large-scale satellites this year.

In Washington, President Bush is said to be on the verge of announcing plans to build a permanent science base for humans on the moon that could serve as a steppingstone for sending astronauts ultimately on to Mars. A speech on the subject is scheduled for next Wednesday.

China’s foreign ministry congratulated the United States after The Associated Press asked for the government’s response to reports on the U.S. plans.

“The Chinese side congratulates the Americans on the successful landing of the ‘Spirit’ probe,” the foreign ministry said in a written response, referring to the NASA rover that landed last weekend on Mars.

“We hope that the human exploration of space will continuously achieve new progress,” the statement said.

It did not directly address the reports about the moon base and possible eventual Mars mission.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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