07 November 2009

R.I.P. Qian Xuesen ~ Father of Chinese Rocketry

Sad to hear that Qian Xuesen passed away at the end of October, 2009 at age 97. After finishing his engineering studies at MIT, he went to CalTech to finish his doctorate under Theodore von Karman. Later as a CalTech professor, Qian co-founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But when he applied for US citizenship, the organs of the State accused him of Communist sympathies, stripped him of clearance, and detained him under house arrest for years. In 1955, he was allowed-told to leave and thus, after arriving in Mao's China, Qian went on to become the Father of Chinese Rocketry. A fascinating tale including plenty of political stupidity and governmental incompetence, but also heroic inventiveness and resilience. At this present time of US space program incoherence and growing, multiple, open fears of Chinese space initiatives, the saga of Qian is worth remembering.

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