Father of China's space tech program dies at 98

Oct 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: SpaceX breaks ground on Texas rocket launch site

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

China selects first spacewomen trainees

Jul 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 ...

Lunar Probe Program Facing Three Major Difficulties

Sep 12, 2005

China is expected to launch its first ever lunar probe satellite in 2007, but the program is still experiencing three major difficulties, said Luan Enjie, chief commander of the lunar satellite project here on Wednesday. ...

Recommended for you

How ancient impacts made mining practical

54 minutes ago

About 1.85 billion years ago, in what would come to be known as Sudbury Canada, a 10 kilometer wide asteroid struck with such energy that it created an impact crater 250 kilometers wide. Today the chief industry of Sudbury ...

Indian spacecraft on course to enter Mars' orbit

1 hour ago

With home-grown technology and a remarkably low budget of about $75 million, India was on course to become the first nation to conduct a successful Mars mission on its first try.

Image: A cosmic hurricane

2 hours ago

The giant planet Saturn is mostly a gigantic ball of rotating gas, completely unlike our solid home planet. But Earth and Saturn do have something in common: weather, although the gas giant is home to some ...

User comments : 2

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".