Hispanic Heritage Month:
Name: Franklin Chang-Diaz
Occupation: Mechanical engineer, physicist and former NASA astronaut
Born: April 5, 1950
Birthplace: San Jose, Costa Rica
Franklin Chang-Diaz is a former NASA astronaut who logged more than 1,600 hours in space, including 19 hours, 31 minutes in three spacewalks, according to Nasa.gov.
His spaceflights were: STS 61-C (1986), STS-34 (1989), STS-46 (1992), STS-60 (1994), STS-75 (1996), STS-91 (1998) and STS-111 (2002). After 25 years as a NASA astronaut, he retired from the agency in July 2005.
Born in Costa Rica, Chang-Diaz, who is part Chinese, is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Costa Rica. He is the founder and president of Ad Astra Rocket Co., an advanced rocket technology company in North America. Ad Astra Rocket has operations in Webster, Texas and Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
Chang-Diaz is currently developing VASIMR, a new space propulsion system he invented and patented and is entering its commercial phase, according to his personal website.
For the love of science and his culture, in 1990 Chang-Diaz led a group of space scientists in search of a plan for regional integration and collaboration in space technology projects in Latin America. This resulted in the organization of the First Space Conference of The Americas, sponsored by The United Nations and held in Costa Rica, according to his website. Three similar conferences in Chile, Uruguay and Colombia followed this initiative.
His most recent project has been to create a master plan to transform Costa Rica into a fully developed country before 2050.