Elaine Meinel Supkis
The strange history of the Chinese space program and my family: intertwined with covens in Pasadena, Nazis in Europe, the beginning of the OSS and the CIA, the Skull and Bones and the Portals to the Outer Darkness, understanding space and time and how this all tangles together by the Fates spinning out the future and the past. This story will sound insane but it is very real.
In 1936 Tsien Hsue-shen went to the California Institute of Technology to commence graduate studies on the referral of Theodore von Kármán. Tsien obtained his doctorate in 1939 and would remain at Caltech for 20 years, ultimately becoming the Goddard Professor and establishing a reputation as one of the leading rocket scientists in the United States.
It was shortly after arriving at Caltech that Tsien was attracted to the rocketry ideas of Frank Malina and a few other students of von Kármán, and their associates. Around Caltech the dangerous and explosive nature of their work earned them the nickname "Suicide Squad."
My father not only knew him, they were kind of close, like real close. My father is younger than he and the other founders of the Jet Propulsion Lab. Indeed, my father was a high school student when the founders got together and started their rocket club. My father's family is very tied in with Cal Tech and so he hung out there before going to college.
Tsien is a tremendous genius. My father learned a lot from him. He wasn't the only Chinese scientist my family associated with, I grew up knowing lots of Chinese as well as German rocket scientists and astronomers. But all this is before my time, the roots of the strange things going on today.
In 1943, Tsien and two others in the Caltech rocketry group drafted the first document to use the name Jet Propulsion Laboratory; it was a proposal to the Army to develop missiles in response to Germany's V-2 rocket. This led to the Private A, which flew in 1944, and later the Corporal, the WAC Corporal, etc.
After World War II he served in the United States Army as a Lieutenant Colonel. Tsien was sent by the Army to Germany and was part of the team that examined captured German V-2 rockets.
The first team sent to Germany were the East Coast scientists from MIT. Their plane was shot down and they all died. Their mission was classified as top secret (even today?). So a back up was sought most urgently. The obvious team was the one at Caltech. First, they needed someone who spoke German, had a German name and could pass as a German and could call upon Germans for assistance since he would be working at the very front, nay, in front of the Allied forces.
The youngest member of the Caltech rocket club had all those qualifications: there were and are today, many Meinels in Germany involved in all the sciences. Back then, one of the German generals in the Wehrmacht was a Meinel, too.
Parsons was also an avid practitioner of the occult arts, and a follower of Thelema. He saw no contradiction between his scientific and magical pursuits: before each rocket test launch, Parsons would invoke the god Pan.
He was chosen by Aleister Crowley to lead Agape Lodge, the Thelemic Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) in California in 1942 after Crowley expelled Wilfred Smith from the position.
Sarah Elizabeth Northrup (AKA 'Betty'), began living with Parsons after his wife (Sarah's sister) Helen Northrup left with Wilfred Smith. Sarah Elizabeth Northrup later married L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology and sometime magickal partner of Parsons. Parsons and Hubbard participated in a ritual known as the Babalon Working which is famous in occult circles — loosely, it was an attempt to summon a living goddess and change the course of history.
The FBI came to California to check him out and report back to Roosevelt himself. They discovered his occult activities and nixed him. This left my father as the one selected to go to Germany. From that moment on, Jack hated my father with a passion.
My father had many interesting adventures that took him first to DC to meet the dying President where he recieved the power to compell even top generals to follow his orders. He then flew to Eisenhower who I suspect laughed to death secretly when he saw what was going on. He assigned my dad to General Patton!
On top of this, the Navy won the right to take on the rocket program so my father had to go to Patton while wearing a naval officier's uniform and inform him, he was to take orders from himself from now on.
My father succeeded in his mission. He also saw all the horrors of the Nazi death camp system. One example of his activities was when he located a secret lab where scientists were still working on rocket designs, he walked into the room, called everyone's attention to himself. Explained to them, they had ten minutes to choose: come with him or go meet the Soviets who were at that moment coming over the other hills around Jena. They looked at each other and then began to run to him, only he needed the paperwork so they stuffed it all in whatever they could.
Tsien was tapped to come to Wiesbaden to help sort through all the paperwork and assist in the interrogations. The German scientists stayed at the castle nearby where my father worked. I visited this place and talked to the caretaker who remembered a lot about those days (much of this information is stuff I got from various people I tracked down myself over the years). My father and Tsien became close friends during that time.
My father was only 23 years old in 1946. I still shake my head, wondering about this. &hearts Here is my father's wikipedia listing:
Aden B. Meinel is an American astronomer. He retired in 1993 as a Distinguished Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He is also holds the rank of Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona Optical Sciences Center. His research interests have included upper atmospheric physics, glass technology, optical design, instrumentation and space systems.
Meinel received his Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley in 1949. His dissertation is entitled A Spectrographic Study of the Night Sky and Aurora in the Near Infrared. In 1954, he was awarded the Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy by the American Astronomical Society. He received the George Van Biesbroeck Prize in 1990.
It leaves out about 90% of his life. This is the whole 'secret life of the CIA' effect one gets even today. Deeds from 60 years ago, invisible. My father, already a major mover and shaker in the world, the man who brought away, under fire from the Russians, a great deal of the German rocket program, is invisible because this was all secret.
But everywhere I went in Germany, the minute I explained who I was and what I was seeking, German scientists or retired military men would start talking about what a great man he is. It was really an eye-opener for me.
When my father's work was done in Germany, he came home and decided he better get a degree! So he moved to Berkeley and went to U C. I am thinking, he wanted to avoid Jack Parsons. During this time, Parsons was busy throwing magic spells. They did this at China Lake in Death Valley. It is a tad creepy to me that I lived there for a while once when my father was doing rocket research...
He and Ron Hubbard wanted to bring into the world a girl who would turn the Wheel of Fate, one that would be born on a magical conjunction of planets, a wild child...who has strange things surrounding her (though they never dreamed it would be Pegasus!). They hoped their women would provide this personage.
They didn't. My mother had three daughters during this time, I was born in 1950. At this time, my father resumed visits with Tsien. Then the McCarthy era began in ernest. I clearly remember my father tracking the news on the newfangled black and white TV set. I remember him being scared. I overheard scientists arguing about all this, the fear was like the smell of ozone before a thunderstorm
Soon after Tsien applied for U.S. citizenship in 1950, allegations were made that he was a communist and his security clearance was revoked. The Federal Bureau of Investigation located a 1938 US Communist Party document with his name on it. Tsien found himself unable to pursue his career and within two weeks announced plans to return to mainland China. After his announcement the U.S. government wavered between deporting him and refusing to allow his departure due to his knowledge. Tsien became the subject of five years of secret diplomacy and negotiation between the United States and PRC.
The country was now being run by a gang of right wing Republicans. As usual, they did a perfectly stinky job of it. They drove out of the country a great scientist and sent him off to China, a country we refused to recognize and pretended to fear. Hsien didn't forget my father, though.
In 1955 Tsien was released and deported from the United States as a part of post-Korean war negotiations to free American prisoners of war held by China. He went to work as head of the Chinese missile program immediately upon his arrival in China. Tsien deliberately left his research papers behind when he left the United States. Tsien joined the Communist Party of China in 1958.
Tsien established the Institute of Mechanics and began to retrain Chinese engineers in the techniques he had learned in the United States and retool the infrastructure of the Chinese program. Within a year Tsien submitted a proposal to the PRC government to establish a ballistic missile program. This proposal was accepted and Tsien was named the first director of the program in late 1956. By 1958 Tsien had finalized the plans of the Dongfeng missile which was first successfully launched in 1964 just prior to China's first successful nuclear weapons test. Tsien's program was also responsible for the development of the widespread Silkworm missile.
I suspect much of our fleet being crammed into the tiny tepid bathtub at the doors of Iran will have to deal with these same Silkworm missiles. It won't be pretty.
Back to my story: Jack Parsons lived only a short ways away from my grandfather's house near Cal Tech.
Jack Parsons died on June 17, 1952 in an explosion of Fulminate of Mercury at his home laboratory which is generally regarded as accidental — he stored many volatile chemicals and compounds in the lab. Though gravely injured, he survived the explosion, only to die of his wounds. Unsubstantiated rumors have suggested that Parsons' death might not have been accidental. A rumor that keeps circulating was that Parsons was trying to create a homonculous based on Aleister Crowley's notes. Supposedly, Crowley's books on spells and rituals are rife with "alchemical" booby traps. Considering Parson's scientific expertise, it's considered suspicious that he would make such a careless mistake of mixing mercury with another compound known to be explosive.
Distraught, Parsons's mother killed herself not long after he died.
The Parsons crater on the far side of the Moon has been named after him.
Conspiracy theorists also note that the naming of the crater is suspect seeing as how no one will ever see this "memorial"
All the characters in this story have craters named for themselves on the Dark Side of the Moon. Including my grandfather. Also on Mars. It is rather a long inside joke, actually.
Back to the days of the beginning of NASA and the space program: since I was a very strange person from the earliest days, being hit repeatedly by lightning and this being witnessed by the rocket scientists, astronomers and geologists who hung out with my dad, I was privvy to many of the strange belief systems and odd businesses many of them practiced with varying levels of secrecy.
The founding father of the Chinese space program is a spirtualist, for example. My parents have their own system which emphatically clashes with my own. I picked mine literally off of the floor of the entrance to Yerkes Observatory, the mosaic of the constellations.
This being a rather small world, we all knew each other, I knew many famous scientists simply because they lived next door or came to the mountain, we often lived on the mountains where the great observatories stood.
When Nixon went to China, Tsien told Chou Enlai to ask Kissinger to send over my father. This is how my parents ended up working in China. Back then, I told them the Chinese will overtake America and win by 2020. They thought I was crazy (Cassandra is never believed). They did remark as to how swiftly the Chinese learned everything set before them. The contrasted that with teaching in America. I warned them, this was no surprise, the Chinese culture has a tremendous, long history of science and learning that is stellar.
To this day, it irritates me terribly to see the snide, sneering way Americans talk about the Chinese. Doesn't matter what the topic is! I start off at my blog wanting to talk about things only to get drawn into a fury reading other people's writings, 'professionals' who are childishly biased and short-sighted.
My own interactions with the Chinese has been most instructive: when I sat down with books and graphs and talked about economics and money, they actually listened to me! And understood me! I still shake my head in astonishment.
Throughout this, there lurks the dragon of magic. Every once and a while, one can feel him slinking about underfoot. People like to think that scientists are all pointy-headed realists. This is totally false.
They are above all, dreamers who try to look behind the mirror, who want to ride the rainbow or defy the stormy seas. Science has always had a Mephistopholean magical facet since the very beginning. Astronomy and religion were born from the same womb and grew up together, side by side. They are actually twins. One dark, one light.
The rocket program attracted this sort of person, they didn't want to do small things and then work their way up, they wanted right off the bat, to go to Mars, the Moon, to the stars! Many of them were and are avid science fiction fans. Many of them including myself, are in science fiction stories (that girl on a talking horse who likes to swing swords and have fun in bed is a familiar character, isn't she?).
Today we are seeing NASA in increasing disarray due to the fissure between the needs of the military and the needs of saving humanity and exploring the universe. This battle for dominance has raged since the middle of WWII. With the collapse of the Cold War, it should have led to the triumph of the futurists. But the Star Wars program dragged on, the brutalization of the Chinese and Russian people turned them away from us.
We lost a historic opportunity to work with both on the much-needed Interstellar Flight project. Instead, we are in an astral arms race. One the USA is doomed to lose for we don't have the funds to do much of anything. And if this all leads to war, this is the worst-case scenario! Science fiction writers have clearly shown us what this disaster will bring. It isn't pretty.
I want to turn the Wheel of Fate. I want to move it away from its present destination. I always knew the Chinese would succeed in developing a robot in space that can eliminate all our satellites. I know the USA can blow up all the cities on earth in just one horrific day.
And I know this is a fool's errand. We have to stop trying to rule this planet. We can't do it. We have to drop the dream of superman, the arrogant ruler who sneers and replace it with the curious scientist looking at nature, wanting to understand the pattern of the stars and the history of the universe.
The magic of love not the bile of hate. The Muslim world has many good scientists, the Hindus of India have given us some of the most magnificent minds in all the sciences especially astronomy. This cuts across all religions. The quest for knowledge is for everyone! All people! After all, Science is one of the Graces, Astronomy is too. And History. They all live with Pegasus on his high mountain where his golden hooves stamp out clear waters. He is more interested in flying to the stars, not war.