Person of the Year: Qian Xuesen

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Aviation Week & Space Technology's Person of the Year is Qian Xuesen, the man who laid the foundation for and became a guiding force of the Chinese space program. As stated in the Jan. 7 issue:

Our Person of the Year may spark controversy. We look forward to your critiques. But before you fire off an e-mail, consider that the designation is not intended as an honor. Rather, the editors sought to designate the person whose influence had the greatest impact--for good or ill--on aviation and space in the past year. We think the paramount development of 2007 was China's ascendancy to the first tier of the world's space powers.

Those achievements include sustaining China's manned spaceflight program, launching its first planetary mission with a probe to the Moon, and, for Ares fans, destroying one of its own satellites in an Asat test using a ground-launched missile. As the main story in AW&ST states:

The antisatellite (Asat) test demonstrated an ability--based on advanced sensors, tracking and precise trajectory control technologies--which had previously belonged only to the U.S. and Russia.

The Asat's warhead, launched by a ballistic missile, intercepted its satellite target nearly head-on, creating an extremely high closing velocity that multiplied the challenges in this test and served to underscore the leap in Chinese technology....

As the story relates, Qian Xuesen is now 96, in poor health and has not been active in the space program for years. But he is credited with the leading role in creating the scientific and industrial complex that's now reaching these heights of achievement--starting in 1956.

We're highlighting the selection both here in Ares and at the On Space blog, and invite your comments here. Did AW&ST make the right choice? Who would you pick? AvWeek subscribers can check out the full package, and everyone can read the main story here at AviationWeek.com/extra.

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