China rocketed dummy astronauts into orbit aboard its third unmanned “Shenzhou” spacecraft Monday night, laying a new foundation for plans to send the country’s first person into space in “the near future,” the official People’s Daily said on Tuesday.

President Jiang Zemin hailed Shenzhou III’s successful launch as a “new milestone” for China, whose last unmanned flight — the Shenzhou II — put a monkey, a dog, a rabbit and snails into orbit in January 2001, it said.