Left: A Chinese Long-March 4-B rocket blasts off on Nov. 6, 2004. Right: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits Qian Xuesen on August 2, 2008.
One can only imagine how history might have played out if the United States had not deported a Chinese-born Caltech rocket scientist on suspicion of being a Communist in 1955. Qian Xuesen first fought his deportation, but later accepted his fate and went on to become the founder of China's missile and space programs. His death this past Sunday comes as China broadens its space exploration efforts to become a potential challenger to a troubled U.S. space program, or perhaps a partner.
Just months ago, North Korea set the Japanese and American militaries on alert with its ill-advised, and failed, attempt to send a payload-bearing rocket into space. This morning, a much friendlier South Korea succeeded in doing exactly that, though the research satellite that South Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 was ferrying failed to find its intended orbit.