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How The United States Gave China One Of Its Most Powerful Weapons

This black and white photo shows a Chinese man seated at a table with an open book in front of him. His right hand, holding a pen, is resting on the middle of the book.
Tsien Hsue-Shen was recruited by Caltech to head up its aeronautics department. However, he couldn't escape the effects of the Red Scare and McCarthyism.
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In this episode of our podcast LA Made: Blood, Sweat & Rockets, we round out a three-part series on the Red Scare and examine how McCarthyist fallout at JPL played a role in the weaponization of space.

What To Expect In This Episode

Brilliant aeronautical engineer Tsien Hsue-Shen is a rising star in the aerospace industry. Courted by Caltech to lead its aeronautics department, Tsien files to become a full-fledged U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, Tsien’s connections to the Suicide Squad, the name given to the early rocket pioneers at JPL, send up a red flag to the FBI.

As we’ll hear, Frank Malina — another of the influential early rocket engineers — isn’t the only scientist whose citizenship blows up in his face as a result of his alleged communist affiliations. Tsien soon discovers that working in the aerospace industry while being Chinese-American has a pretty short half-life of its own.

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Tsien Hsue-Shen talks to his lawyer during his deportation hearing.
Getty Images)


The Curse of Tsien — the shocking story of how the U.S. lost out of its most brilliant rocketry minds to China

Why You Should Listen

Tune in as our host M.G. Lord unravels the convoluted irony of how the United States government — in an effort to prevent classified missile research from getting into the hands of the Chinese military —ends up delivering one of its most valuable resources directly to their doorstep.

What’s Your Security Clearance, Clarence?

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the costly effects of McCarthyism, but unfortunately it was often rocket scientists who paid the highest price.

What Else Will I Find Inside?

Internal prejudice, global tension, and unwieldy international efforts to gain dominance over the final frontier of space.

In The News ...

Geopolitical tension between the U.S. and China is still very present to this day. That historic and present-day tension, made the news over the weekend when U.S. fighter jets shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon.

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This All Sounds Fascinating! How Do I Find The Podcast?

It's available now from LAist Studios. Check it out wherever you get your podcasts! Or, you can listen to the episode in the player above.

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