Father of China's space tech program dies at 98

October 31, 2009 By HENRY SANDERSON , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Qian Xuesen, a rocket scientist known as the father of China's space technology program, died Saturday in Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency said. He was 98.

Qian, also known as Tsien Hsue-shen, began his career in the U.S. and was regarded as one of the brightest minds in the new field of aeronautics before returning to in 1955, driven out of the at the height of anticommunist fervor.

Qian set up China's first missile and rocket research institute, which later helped start China's space program.

He led the development of China's first nuclear-armed ballistic missiles and worked on its first satellite, launched in 1970.

He retired in 1991, the year before China's manned space program was launched. But his research formed the basis for the Long March CZ-2F rocket that carried astronaut Yang Liwei into orbit in 2003.

In August, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Qian and praised him for dedicating his life to China's defense technologies, according to Xinhua.

"I'm trying to live to be 100 years old," Qian told him.

Born in 1911 in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Qian left for the United States after winning a scholarship to graduate school in 1936. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later at the California Institute of Technology, where he helped start the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

During , Qian helped to design ballistic missiles for the U.S. military. In 1945, as an Army colonel with a security clearance, he was sent to Europe on a mission to examine captured rocket technology from Nazi Germany.

He studied the German V-2 and interviewed its chief designer, Wernher von Braun, who would go on to play a key role in the American .

After the war, Qian married the daughter of a military adviser to Chinese leader Gen. Chiang Kai-shek. In 1949, he applied to become a U.S. citizen, shortly before Chiang's Nationalist forces were defeated by Mao Zedong's communists.

As anticommunist unease in the United States mounted, the FBI confronted Qian in 1950 with a U.S. Communist Party document from 1938 that listed him as a member.

Qian denied being a communist, but he was briefly arrested and lost his security clearance. Washington began hearings to deport him, though he was never charged with a crime.

After five years of virtual house arrest and secret negotiations between Washington and Beijing, Qian left for his homeland in 1955.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: China selects first spacewomen trainees

Related Stories

China selects first spacewomen trainees

July 28, 2005

China has officially selected its first group of 35 women to be trained as astronauts. The women, all between 17 and 20 years old, will train as pilots at the Chinese military's Aviation University, Xinhua, China's main government-run ...

China names asteroids after astronauts

March 19, 2007

Authorities at the Purple Mountain Observatory under the Chinese Academy of Sciences have named two asteroids after Chinese astronauts.

Recommended for you

Dense star clusters shown to be binary black hole factories

July 29, 2015

The coalescence of two black holes—a very violent and exotic event—is one of the most sought-after observations of modern astronomy. But, as these mergers emit no light of any kind, finding such elusive events has been ...

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

david_42
not rated yet Oct 31, 2009
Qian represents the single largest transfer of technical knowledge from the US to any country. He probably cut decades and billions of dollars off of China's space program.
frajo
1 / 5 (1) Oct 31, 2009
A fascinating hint how dialectic history is working:
Because the US administration fears "communism" they force somebody to help "communism".

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.