A TIMELINE and BRIEF HISTORY of China's Space Program
Qian Xuesen (usually printed Tsien Hsue-Shen) leaves Shanghai
for graduate studies at MIT
and later, at the urging of renowned rocket scientist Theodor
Von Karman, himself only recently arrived in the USA from
Hungary, continuing studies and research at Cal
Tech. Not long afterward, Von Karmen and his collegues,
including Qian, founded the Jet
Qian Xuesen and Von Karmen went to Germany at the end of World
War II and helped coordinate "Operation Paperclip"
that brought the Nazi rocket scientists, particularly the
famous Werner Von Braun, to the United States. Von Braun and
his proteges had surrendered to American troops in advance
of the Russian front. The Russians, however, "inherited"
the production crews of the Nazi rocket and aerospace industries.
The Nazi regime in Germany had by far the most advanced technology.
Many of Qian's theories were tested and proven by the Nazi
scientists. Qian assimililated much of the Nazi expertise
and quickly became the foremost theoritician in rocket and
jet propulsion in the USA.
Both the USA and the Soviet Union were actively experimenting
with modified Nazi V-2 rocket designs with many successful
launches. By 1950 the USA had established what would become
the Cape Kennedy space center in Florida. At the same time,
the USA and China entered a long period of bitterness over
the collapse of the USA backed regime headed by Generalissimo
Chiang Kai-Shek and the victory of the Communist Party in
China. A sudden and still little-understood chain of events
led to the Korean War, the creation of a protectorate
for the failed Chiang government, and an anti-communist
hysteria that would ultimately engulf the USA. A victim of
this unhappy period was Qian Xuesen who became a virtual prisoner
after he was accused of being a communist conspirator.
Qian Xuesen is deported to the People's Republic of China.
He is welcomed as a hero and quickly put in charge of China's
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik and the space race was on
China sets up the Jiuquan Space Center in remote western Gansu
province. In the USA the Jupiter-C rocket, brainchild of Werner
Von Braun (see above), successfully launches the first American
satellite into orbit. Not long afterwards NASA
The Russians shock the world by placing the first man in space,
Yuri Gagarin. The USA, quietly (the name
of the first Astronaut was kept secret until leaked by the
press) but quickly responded a month later when Alan
Shephard was launched into a sub-orbit. The following
year, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the globe
on February 20, 1962. The space race between the Soviet Union
and USA culminated in 1969 with the fantastic achievement
of the USA landing men on the moon, earth's natural satellite.
During this time, France and Japan also began space programs,
both nations launching satellites. China's space program also
made enormous advances during this period but suffered due
to the tremendous political and economic uncertainties during
the Mao dictatorship.
China achieved guided missiles (the first American guided
missile was launched in 1946)
Successful launch of China's first satellite, the Dong Fang
Hong I. It was heavier than other first satellites launched
by other countries.
China's first recoverable satellite is successfully launched.
China perfects geo-stationary communications satellites.
China enters the lucrative international commercial satellite
launching business with the launch of the Asiasat-I communications
The CZ-2E launch begins the production in China of bigger,
more powerful rockets capable of launching manned space flight.
The start of "Project 921" the pseudonym for China's
manned space exploration program.
Successful development and deployment of large-capacity communications
Space flight of Shenzhou, the first of China's series of unmanned
After years of careful planning and testing China became only
the third nation to launch a human in space flight, Yang
Liwei! On a crisp autumn morning on October 15 under clear
blue skies in the Gobi Desert, the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft was
lifted by an enormous CZ-2F (or Long March) rocket through
the atmosphere and into orbit around Earth.
China launches Shenzhen 6 into orbit with two taikonauts for
a multi-day experimental mission.
There are big plans ahead including serious talk of a space
© 2003-2005 Ben Calmes for Sinomania!