Mars mission inspires growing fan base back in China

BEIJING (AP) — As China’s first spacecraft to Mars orbits the red planet, the nation is falling in love with space. It’s inspired by the ruling Communist Party’s increasingly ambitious plans over the past two decades to launch humans into orbit and explore the moon and Mars. Tourists flock to tropical Hainan island to watch rockets blast off. Others visit mock Mars colonies in desert sites with white domes, airlocks and spacesuits. The number of space-themed TV shows, books and fan clubs is growing. The love affair also is catching on in Japan, India and other countries that are sending probes across the solar system, joining a club of explorers long dominated by the U.S. and Russia.