America’s First Hispanic Astronaut
Franklin Chang-Diaz was born on April 5, 1950, in San Jose , Costa Rica . His father was the late Ramon A. Chang-Morales and his mother Mrs. Maria Diaz De Chang. He is married to the former Peggy Marguerite Doncaster of Alexandria, Louisiana. They have four children. He was an outstanding student in school and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Connecticut in 1973. Eventually Franklin went on to achieve a doctorate degree in applied plasma physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
While attending the University of Connecticut , he worked as a research assistant in the Physics Department and participated in the design and construction of high-energy atomic collision experiments. While at MIT, Dr. Chang-Diaz became heavily involved in the scientific research of controlled fusion. Later in 1979, he developed a novel concept to guide and target fuel pellets in an inertial fusion reactor changer. This high-level of research lead to the design of a new concept in rocket propulsion based on magnetically confined high temperature plasmas. His design work helped develop this technology for future use in vehicles that could propel human missions to Mars.
Dr. Chang-Diaz was selected by NASA in May, 1980, and became an astronaut in August, 1981. While undergoing training, he became involved in a flight software checkout at the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory. He also played a significant role in the design and development of the International Space Station.
From October 1984 to August 1985, he was leader of the astronaut support team at the Kennedy Space Center . He helped implement closer ties between the astronaut corps and the scientific community. In January 1987, he started the Astronaut Science Colloquium Program and later helped form the Astronaut Science Support Group.
In his space flight career, Dr. Chang-Diaz was a veteran of seven flights, including STS 61-C, (1986), STS-34 (1989), STS-46 (1992), STS 60 (1994), STS-75 (1996), STS 91 (1998), and STS-111 (2002). He has logged over 1600 hours in space, including 19 hours and 31 minutes in three space walks. Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz is considered by many aerospace historians to be one of the most brilliant members of the astronaut corps. He is a role model that has set a very high standard for young Hispanic men and women to follow. He, too, is an American treasure in the field of rocket science and space technology.
Younger youth. Dr. Chang-Diaz exemplifies the point that people from all backgrounds can achieve spectacular goals if they will just make the effort and commitment to apply themselves to achieve success. Dr. Chang-Diaz is well known for many accomplishments in scientific research in support of the space program, as well as his achievements as an astronaut. And he did it all without abusing drugs or alcohol. He personifies the advantages of living a drug-free life style. Drug-free- Way to be!
Older youth. Dr. Chang-Diaz is an exemplary role model in every respect. His many accomplishments shatter any negative stereotype images some might hold regarding Hispanics. The American space program certainly is much the better as a result of his continued commitment to excellence. His considerable research in plasma and spacecraft propulsion could well provide the foundation for future space travel. Should you ever have the opportunity to travel to Mars, your space ship’s mode of transportation might very well be based on Dr. Chang-Diaz’s research. One can only imagine what is still yet to be discovered by this amazing man, and how he might further contribute to advancing America ’s trek into space.
Given all that Dr. Chang-Diaz has accomplished, ask yourself how much he might have been able to accomplish, had he instead decided to abuse a drug like methamphetamine or cocaine. In other words, how many scientists do you know of who were able to make such contributions while abusing drugs or alcohol? The likely answer is that there simply aren’t any. Alcohol and drug abuse takes away initiative, intellectual curiosity, and ability to think critically. Alcohol and drug addicts just aren’t capable of significant accomplishments like those of Dr. Chang-Diaz. Drug-free-Way to be!
This curriculum is sponsored by the Drug Demand Reduction
Program of the Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters
Maxwell AFB, Alabama
Famous Fliers | Bohn-Meyer | Bluford | Chang-Diaz | Cochran | Coleman | Crossfield | Dahl | Doolittle | Earhart | Gabreski | Goddard | Jemison | Lindbergh | Ochoa | Quimby | Rickenbacker | Ride | Rutan | Wright | Yeager