Thread of the Silkworm is the story of Tsien Hsue-shen -- a man who hasn't set foot in the United States for almost fifty years and who is known in this country only to a handful of aging scientists. Yet he is considered so important to Chinese space development that newspapers in the People's Republic repeatedly refer to him as the "father of Chinese rocketry," prompting even science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke to name a Chinese spaceship after him in his novel 2010: Odyssey II.
His life is one of the supreme ironies of the Cold War. Not only was Tsien Hsue-shen (also known as Qian Xuesen) the mastermind and driving force behind the first generation of nuclear missiles and satellites in China (including the infamous Silkworm antiship missile that was later used against the United States during the Persian Gulf War), he had been trained and nurtured for fifteen years in the United States, leaving only because, indirectly entangled with the Chinese role in the Korean war, trumped-up charges of Communism forced his deportation to the People's Republic of China.
Who is Tsien? Born in 1911 as the son of a minor education official in China, he first came to the United States in 1935 on a Boxer Rebellion scholarship. Taken under the wing of Theodore von Kármán, a brilliant aerodynamicist at