Hispanic Heritage

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Notable Hispanics: Franklin Chang Diaz

Born on April 5, 1950, in San Jose, Costa Rica, Franklin Chang Diaz would grow up to share the world record for number of spaceflights. A member of the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame, Chang Diaz completed seven Space Shuttle missions during his career, tying him with Jerry L. Ross for the most career missions.

Chang Diaz is one of six children and moved to the United States in 1967 to complete his high school education. After earning his high school diploma in 1969, Chang Diaz enrolled in the University of Connecticut, where he studied mechanical engineering before he moved on to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For his graduate work at MIT, Chang Diaz studied fusion technology and plasma-based rocket propulsion, studies that would prove useful during his career as an astronaut and even after he retired from NASA, at which time he established Ad Astra Rocket Company, which is dedicated to the development of advanced plasma rocket propulsion technology.

NASA named Chang Diaz an astronaut candidate in 1980, and he would become an astronaut in 1981.

Chang Diaz would take his first spaceflight in 1986 aboard space shuttle Columbia on a six-day flight. During that mission,Chang Diaz conducted experiments in astrophysics.

Chang Diaz would go on to make history on February 3, 1994, aboard the space shuttle Discovery. That mission marked the first joint United States/Russian space shuttle mission, an eight-day flight that included 130 orbits of Earth.

Chang Diaz also was aboard the Discovery for the ninth and final shuttle-Mir docking mission, which marked the conclusion of the successful joint U.S./Russian program.

The final spaceflight of Chang Diaz's career occurred in 2002 aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. That mission lasted 13 days, during which Chang Diaz performed three spacewalks.

Chang Diaz's extraordinary career has earned him well-deserved acclaim in his native Costa Rica as well as his adopted homeland of the United States, where in 2014 the Explorers Club awarded him the "Buzz Aldrin Quadrennial Award."