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Father of China`s Space, Nuke Programs Dies

Posted November. 02, 2009 08:15,   


Qian Xuesen, considered the father of China`s space technology program, died in Beijing Saturday morning, Chinese media said yesterday. He was 98.

Born in Hangzhou in December 1911, Qian graduated from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 1934 before studying aviation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1935. At the time, China was seething with revolution and war against imperial Japan.

In 1939, he received a doctorate in aviation and mathematics from California Institute of Technology. He also participated in the U.S. Scientific Advisory Board’s missile development in World War II.

Qian could not return to China for many years because of the U.S. government’s efforts to prevent a brain drain. He finally returned home in 1955 after being exchanged with an American pilot captured by China in the Korean War.

After Qian’s return, he led China’s development of nuclear weapons and its space program.

He was behind China’s first nuclear bomb test in October 1964, hydrogen bomb test in June 1967, and the launch of its first artificial satellite in April 1970. In addition, he contributed to the October 2003 launch of China’s first manned space aircraft.

Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Qian in the hospital in January this year, while Premier Wen Jiabao visited the scientist’s home four times.

Qian was beloved by the Chinese people not just because of his contributions to China’s technology, but also for instilling patriotism and national pride in them. He deeply moved his countrymen by saying the time he spent in the U.S. was his preparation for working for China because he was a Chinese, adding the Chinese people could do what foreigners could.

Despite heaps of praise, he remained humble. He said China’s development of the atomic bomb and artificial satellite were the works of thousands of scientists, not just one man.

When China’s official CCTV selected him as one of ten people who “touched” China, he said, “China and its people are great, not me.”

He was also related to Qian Yongjian, 57, also known as his American name Roger Y. Tsien, who received the Nobel Prize for chemistry last year. Many from the Qian family are famous scientists.

Qian Xuesen received the highest awards from the Chinese government and the Central Military Commission.

His funeral is set for Saturday. The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party will host the ceremony.