BEIJING (AP) — Qian Xuesen, a rocket scientist known as the father of China’s space technology program, died on Oct. 31 in Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency said. He was 98 years old.
Qian, also known as Tsien Hsue-shen, began his career in the United States and was regarded as one of the brightest minds in the field of aeronautics before returning to China in 1955. He was driven out of the United States at the height of anticommunist fervor.
Qian set up China’s first missile and rocket research institute, which later helped to 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.
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 World War II, Qian helped to design ballistic missiles for the U.S. military. In 1945, as an Army colonel with security clearance, he was sent to Europe on a mission to examine captured rocket technology from Nazi Germany.
He studied the German V-2 rocket and interviewed its chief designer, Wernher von Braun, who would go on to play a key role in the American manned space program. ♦