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Franklin Chang Díaz (张福林)
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Template:Infobox Chinese Franklin Ramón Chang Díaz (born April 5, 1950)[1] is a Costa Rican-American mechanical engineer, physicist and former NASA astronaut. He became an American citizen in 1977.[2] He is of Chinese (paternal grandfather) and Costa Rican Spanish (maternal side) descent.[3] Chang Díaz is currently president and CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company.[4] He is a veteran of seven Space Shuttle missions, making him the record holder as of 2014 for the most spaceflights (a record he shares with Jerry L. Ross). He was the third Latin American to go into space.[5] Chang Díaz is a member of the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Family and educationEdit

Franklin Ramón Chang Díaz was born in San José, Costa Rica on April 5, 1950 to a father of Chinese descent, Ramón Ángel Chang Morales (born 1919), an oil worker whose own father fled China during the Boxer Rebellion.[6] His mother is Costa Rican, María Eugenia Díaz Romero (born 1927). One of six children, he has a younger sister, Sonia Rosa (born December 1952), and his mother, brothers, and sisters live in Costa Rica. His elder daughters are Jean Elizabeth (born December 1973), and Sonia Rosa (born March 1978) who is a member of the Massachusetts Senate.[7][8] He married Peggy Marguerite Doncaster in the United States on 17 December 1984 and his younger daughters are Lidia Aurora (born March 1988) and Miranda Karina (July 1995),[9] both born in Houston, Texas.[10][11][12][13]

He attended elementary school at Father Juan de Barnuevo in Altagracia de Orituco, Guarico state, Venezuela. He graduated from Colegio de La Salle in San José in November 1967, then moved to the United States to finish his high school education at Hartford Public High School in Connecticut, in 1969.[13] He went on to attend the University of Connecticut, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and joined the federal TRIO Student Support Services program in 1973.[14] He then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a Doctor of Science in applied plasma physics in 1977.[14] For his graduate research at MIT, Chang Díaz worked in the field of fusion technology and plasma-based rocket propulsion.[2]

NASA careerEdit

Chang Díaz was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1980 and first flew aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-61-C in 1986. Subsequent missions included STS-34 (1989), STS-46 (1992), STS-60 (1994), STS-75 (1996), STS-91 (1998), and STS-111 (2002). During STS-111, he performed three spacewalks with Philippe Perrin as part of the construction of the International Space Station. He was also director of the Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center from 1993 to 2005. Chang Díaz retired from NASA in 2005.[2]

Post-NASA careerEdit

After leaving NASA, Chang Díaz set up the Ad Astra Rocket Company, which became dedicated to the development of advanced plasma rocket propulsion technology. Years of research and development have produced the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR), an electrical propulsion device for use in space.[15] With a flexible mode of operation, the rocket can achieve very high exhaust speeds, and even has the theoretical capability to take a manned rocket to Mars in 39 days.[16]

Chang Díaz also is active in environmental protection and raising awareness about climate change, notably in his role in Odyssey 2050 The Movie in which he encourages young people to get motivated about environmental issues.[17]


Dr. Chang with students during the filming of Odyssey 2050 The Movie at Ad Astra Rocket Company.

In addition, Chang Díaz is an Adjunct Professor in Physics and Astronomy at Rice University.[18] He is currently on the board of directors of Cummins.

Awards and honorsEdit

Franklin Chang Díaz was inducted into the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 5, 2012[19] in a ceremony that took place in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Also, due to his career and scientific success, he has been decorated multiple times in Costa Rica and named Honor Citizen by the national legislature.[13] The Costa Rican National High Technology Center (CeNAT), among other institutions, is named after him.[20] In 2014, Chang Díaz was awarded the "Buzz Aldrin Quadrennial Space Award" by The Explorers Club for the VASMIR. Buzz Aldrin, whom Chang Díaz called a childhood hero, presented the award.[21]

See alsoEdit


  1. Template:Cite book
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Franklin Chang-Diaz: Astronaut and Rocket Scientist at the Wayback Machine (archived November 15, 2007), Wired Science, November 14, 2007.
  3. NASA biography NASA, August 2005.
  4. Ad Astra Rocket Company – About us, company website, accessed 2010-03-10
  5. NOVA Science Now. "Profile: Franklin Chang-Diaz". PBS. Retrieved April 21, 2011.  The first Latin American to go into space was Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez from Cuba in 1980, and second was Rodolfo Neri Vela from Mexico in 1985.
  6. Chang-Díaz, Franklin R.: 1950—: Astronaut, Physicist Retrieved: 2012-05-05.
  7. "Sonia Chang-Diaz grabs Senate seat -". Boston Herald. 2008-11-05. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  8. Template:Cite news
  9. Dr. Franklin R. Chang-Diaz – Keynote Speaker Babson. Retrieved: 2012-05-05.
  10. Consultas de hechos y actos civiles y electorales Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones. Retrieved: 2012-05-05. Template:Language icon
  11. La familia Díaz de San José La Nación. Retrieved: 2012-05-05. Template:Language icon
  12. Space Shuttle Mission STS-75 Press Kit NASA. February 1996.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Biographical Data: Franklin R. Chang-Dìaz (Ph.D.) NASA. August 2005.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Spacefacts Biography of Franklin Chang-Diaz. Spacefacts. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  15. "NASA - Propulsion Systems of the Future". Retrieved 2012-09-25. 
  16. Billings, Lee (2009-09-29). "Former astronaut Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz explains how his plasma rocket engine could revolutionize space travel and why we need nuclear power in space". Seed Media Group. 
  17. Whelan, Ben. "Odyssey 2050". Odyssey 2050. British Embassy Costa Rica. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  18. "Franklin Chang-Diaz". Faculty Information System. Rice University. Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  19. "Collect Space". Collect Space. 2012-05-06. Retrieved 2012-09-25. 
  20. Address: Building Dr. Franklin Chang Diaz, 1.3 km. North American Embajda Pavas, San Jose, Costa Rica Centro Nacional de Alta de Tecnología (CeNAT), 2011.
  21. Template:Cite news

External linksEdit

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