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November 2, 2009

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Space-program legend mourned

THE death of legendary scientist Qian Xuesen has plunged many Chinese into deep sorrow and people across the country mourned the scientist, known as China's "father of the space program," in different ways.

Qian, also known as Tsien Hsue-shen, died in Beijing on Saturday morning at the age of 98. He led the country's missile and aviation programs and played a significant role in developing China's first man-made Earth satellite.

A mourning hall was set up at Qian's home in Beijing for the public. Yesterday morning, people with flowers showed up at his home despite heavy snow to express condolences to his family.

Sun Jiadong, chief designer of China's lunar probe project, came with a bunch of white chrysanthemum. "In the old days when he guided our young people in doing academic work, he always encouraged us to ask questions and exchanged views with us," Sun said.

Several students from Tsinghua University waited downstairs for a long time before they could get in the hall.

"May he rest in peace. We will do our best to complete his unfinished work," said one of them, Wang Peng.

More visitors simply stood downstairs and looked up to the hall in silence.

News of his death hit newspapers and Websites over the weekend.

The Beijing News yesterday published an editorial and urged people to learn from his devotion to science and truth.

Online news reports on his death were followed by thousands of messages from grieving Netizens.

"Qian worked hard throughout his life. While mourning his leaving, our young generation should speed up efforts and make our own contributions to the country," said a Netizen named "1931."

In Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where Qian studied from 1929 to 1934, more than 2,000 students held a memorial service on the campus on Saturday night to pay respect to their alumnus.

Qian, seen as one of the country's greatest scientists and a patriot, studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States in 1935 and later at the California Institute of Technology.

He came back to China in 1955.


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