National Hispanic Heritage Month: Franklin R. Chang Díaz, Astronaut

In 1986, astronaut Franklin R. Chang Díaz became the first Hispanic-American to travel into outer space when he flew on board the Space Shuttle Columbia. Chang Díaz, the son of a father of Chinese descent and a mother who is Costa Rican, was born in San José, Costa Rica, in 1950. He moved to the United States in 1969 to live with relatives and complete his high school education in Connecticut. Chang Díaz went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Connecticut and a doctorate in applied plasma physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He became a U.S. citizen in 1977.

Chang Díaz was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1980.  “There were a lot Hispanics in NASA but none of them in the astronaut program,” he recalled in a Time magazine interview. “The internationalization of space began to take place and I guess I was right there in the beginning.” Along with his history-making spaceflight in 1986, Chang Díaz completed six other  space shuttle missions. He and fellow U.S. astronaut Jerry L. Ross share the record for most spaceflights. In 2005, Chang Díaz retired from NASA.  

Chang Díaz has received the Medal of Excellence from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. In addition, he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. For more information on Franklin R. Chang Díaz, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_Chang_Díaz and the 12 January 2016 Time magazine article “Meet the First Hispanic American in Space” at http://time.com/4168255/franklin-chang-diaz/.

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