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  Qian Xuesen, father of China's space program

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Author Topic:   Qian Xuesen, father of China's space program
dom
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posted 10-31-2009 12:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Beijing news agencies are reporting that Tsien Hsue-shen (Qian Xuesen) - the founder of the Chinese space program - has died aged 98.
China's keystone space scientist Qian Xuesen, widely acclaimed as the country's "father of space technology" and "king of rocketry", died of illness here Saturday morning at the age of 98.

In 1956, based on Qian's position paper on the country's defense and aviation industry, the central government set up an aviation industry committee, which later became the leading organization for China's missile and aviation programs.

Under the guidance of Qian, also known as Tsien Hsue-shen, China finished the blueprint on developing jet and rocket technology. He also played a significant role in developing the country's first artificial earth satellite.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-31-2009 01:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In addition to the role Qian Xuesen played for China's space program, he also contributed greatly to the United States' early rocketry efforts. To quote Wikipedia:
In 1943, Tsien and two others in the Caltech rocketry group drafted the first document to use the name Jet Propulsion Laboratory; it was a proposal to the Army to develop missiles in response to Germany's V-2 rocket. This led to the Private A, which flew in 1944, and later the Corporal, the WAC Corporal, etc.

During the Second World War, he was amongst many scientists who participated in the "Manhattan Project".

After World War II he served under von Karman as a consultant to the United States Army Air Force, and was eventually given the "assimilated rank of colonel". Von Karman and Tsien were sent by the Army to Germany to investigate the progress of wartime aerodynamics research. Tsien investigated research facilities and interviewed German scientists such as Wernher von Braun and Rudolph Hermann. Von Karman wrote of Tsien, "At the age of 36, he was an undisputed genius whose work was providing an enormous impetus to advances in high-speed aerodynamics and jet propulsion."

During this time, Colonel Tsien worked on a designing an intercontinental space plane Tsien Space Plane 1949. His work would inspire the X-20 Dyna-Soar which would later be the inspiration for the Space Shuttle.

dom
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posted 10-31-2009 04:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Anyone who has read 'Thread of the Silkworm' by Iris Chang - a Chinese-American historian who died tragically young five years ago this November - realises that this brilliant man's academic career at Caltech/JPL was destroyed when he lost his security clearance during the worst of McCarthy era "communist spy" mania.

The fact that he was cynically kept under "house arrest" in the US for five years (to try to prevent what he had in his head falling into Chinese hands if he returned home) only adds insult to injury.

Who knows what contribution he would have made to the future US space program if all this hadn't of happened?

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
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posted 10-31-2009 05:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As Xuesen was a key player in development of the PRC's nuclear ballistic missile program, the revocation of his security clearance in retrospect was an appropriate action.

dom
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posted 10-31-2009 07:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You are trying to justify the original wrong by mentioning something that wouldn't have happened if he had kept his JPL job in the first place.

Tsien came from an aristocratic Chinese family with links to the Nationalists and certainly wasn't a communist. He only went to China after he was driven out of the US and kick-started their missile program because he really had little choice when he returned.

It was a serious "own goal" on the part of the US and gifted one of the 1950s top rocket theorists to Red China when they had difficulties building trucks!

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
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posted 10-31-2009 10:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We may never know where his true allegiance lay since his initial enculturation occured in China. None the less, it was his decision to return to China, help the Communists and a Maoist regime responsible for the death of millions (he actually became a card carrying member of the Chinese Communist Party) in order to practice his tradecraft; if Xuesen had altruistic intentions he could have gone elsewhere and/or applied his talents towards peaceful purposes.

dom
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posted 11-01-2009 04:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm afraid you are letting your views of Chinese communists malign Tsien's character.

Although born in China, he was mostly educated in America, having arrived as the son of wealthy aristocrats in the early 1930s. Hardly the profile of a committed communist agent!

In total he spent 20 years in America - the last five of which he spent trying NOT to be deported. It was the US government who had included him on a list of 110 'suspects' who were eventually traded for American GIs captured in Korea. This list had been drawn-up because these Chinese-born scientist "might" be a danger to national security.

Let me point out that there is still NO intelligence that his loyalties where anywhere else but with his academic colleagues at Caltech.

As to the point that he then became a "card carrying member of the Chinese Communist Party" on his return. In totalitarian systems you often don't have much of a choice. How many of Von Braun's team had been Nazi party members - probably most!

I would rate Tsien alongside Von Braun and Korolev - men who also didn't let altruism get in the way of using a totalitarian regime to build their rockets - in importance to the history of the space age.

Is this contribution not worthy of some quiet respect?

DChudwin
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posted 11-01-2009 08:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is a balanced obituary of Qian in the LA Times which gives consideration to both sides of thought about this eminent rocket scientist.

Like von Braun, Qian employed his talents for a dictatorship in his ancestral homeland. It is easy to look back and criticize, but what should great scientists/engineers do if they are living in such a situation? There are real moral dilemmas involved, and no easy solutions.

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
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posted 11-01-2009 08:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dom:
Although born in China, he was mostly educated in America
In my opinion, a mis-characterization since Qian completed his undergraduate studies in China... he did of course benefit from advance studies while in the US, and access to technology which was non-resident in China.

It remains an open question as to whether or not he was actually a spy; the government has not released all of the FBI files and so we don't know precisely what they had on him. What is clear is upon his return to China, Xuesen was a committed (not just card carrying) communist and his enthusiastic work on the Chinese ICBM program was either a voluntarily initiated vindictive slap at the US or he always had maintained a covert allegiance to China and felt it was his obligation to advance its military capability (using knowledge and experience gained from the US). Neither of these scenarios in my opinion merit "quiet respect".

For the record I have never sanctioned the work Von Braun's team did for the Nazi's and believe they should always be held accountable for that period.

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posted 11-01-2009 09:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DChudwin:
Like von Braun, Qian employed his talents for a dictatorship in his ancestral homeland.
Not morally equivalent in my view as von Braun transitioned from using his wartime honed talent to peaceful purposes, Xuesen did precisely the opposite...

dom
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posted 11-01-2009 09:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LCDR Scott Schneeweis:
It remains an open question as to whether or not he was actually a spy; the government has not released all of the FBI files and so we don't know precisely what they had on him. What is clear is upon his return to China, Xuesen was a committed (not just card carrying) communist and his enthusiastic work on the Chinese ICBM program was either a voluntarily initiated vindictive slap at the US or he always had maintained a covert allegiance to China and felt it was his obligation to advance its military capability (using knowledge and experience gained from the US). Neither of these scenarios in my opinion merit "quiet respect".
My original point was that he was effectively driven into the arms of the Chinese regime by questionable treatment (in my eyes anyway) in the 1950s.

Any 'evidence' that might be hidden in a file somewhere - surely it should be declassified by now? - is probably very flimsy indeed. The FBI spent nearly five years trailing him after the first suspicions surfaced and never found anything incriminating.

To retrospectively state that because he was an "committed" communist on his returned (after five years of feeling unwanted by the US), that he was also one before is taking it all a little bit too far.

But you are probably right to believe that he then helped China develop ballistic missiles as an act of revenge for his wrecked academic career.

Let's agree to disagree and let the man rest in peace. It's all history now...

DChudwin
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posted 11-01-2009 10:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Qian was not just a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC), he was a member of the CPC Central Committee, one of the leaading bodies of that party.

Likewise, von Braun was a Nazi party member and an officer in the SS (photos exist showing him in an SS officer's uniform).

Korolev was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).

Whether these men had any choice in the matter is an important question. As leading scientists/engineers they would be expected to join these groups.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 11-01-2009 07:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
.

E2M Lem Man
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posted 11-02-2009 12:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
.

J M Busby

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