|Volume: 01, Issue: 15||10/22/2003|
Award-Winning Astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz Follows DreamNASA Astronaut Franklin Chang-Diazís life has changed dramatically since his childhood days in San Jose, Costa Rica. Chang-Diaz arrived in Connecticut in 1967, speaking no English and with only $50 in his pocket. He has come a long way since then: he became a NASA astronaut and recently won Discover magazine's 2003 Innovation Award for Space Science and Technology in the Space Explorer category.
Discover magazineís prestigious awards are to be announced in its November issue. These 14th annual awards honor scientists whose work has benefited the space program and all humanity. The Innovation Awards for Space Science and Technology are presented in Space Explorer, Communications, Space Scientists, Technology for Humanity, and Aerospace categories.
Chang-Diaz is a world-class rocket propulsion scientist. He is a veteran of seven space flights, a record he shares with one other astronaut. He also is director of the Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. There he and his team are developing the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) Engine, a concept that may eventually enable humans to explore more distant parts of our solar system and perhaps beyond.
After immigrating to the United States, Chang-Diaz graduated from Hartford (Conn.) High School in 1969 and earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Connecticut in 1973. Chang-Diaz got his Ph.D. in applied plasma physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977. He later worked in the nation's controlled fusion program.
He became an astronaut in August 1981. His first space flight, in January 1986, was a satellite deployment and research mission. His most recent flight was an International Space Station assembly and crew exchange mission in June 2002. He participated in three spacewalks during that flight.
Franklin Chang-Diaz remains a national hero in Costa Rica, where his mother, brothers and sisters still live.
For more information on Chang-Diaz and other astronauts, visit the astronaut biography website at:
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