October 31, 2009 / 8:17 AM / 10 years ago

"Father" of China's space program dies aged 98

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese scientist Qian Xuesen, widely considered the father of the country’s nuclear missile and space program, has died at the age of 98, state news agency Xinhua said on Saturday.

Qian, who name is also spelled Tsien Hsue-shen, was born in eastern China but went to the United States in 1935 to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then the California Institute of Technology.

He returned to China in 1955 after the Communist revolution, and joined the Party in 1958.

Qian was put in charge of developing the country’s first missiles, and also oversaw the development of China’s first atom bomb, exploded in 1964.

“His return brought China the hope of developing space science and its own missiles,” state media said of him in a report last year.

China put its first man into space in 2003.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Editing by Dean Yates

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