During his 25 years in the astronaut
program, Dr. Franklin R. Chang Díaz became one of only two
astronauts to fly on seven space shuttle missions. He logged more
than 1,601 hours in space, a total that includes 19 hours and 31
minutes accumulated during three spacewalks. Chang Díaz’s missions
aboard the space shuttle include STS-61-C, STS-34, STS-46, STS-60,
STS-75, STS-91 and STS-111.
Chang Díaz’s missions into space
include numerous scientific achievements. As a crew member of
STS-61-C, Dr. Chang Díaz participated in the deployment of the
SATCOM KU satellite, operated the materials processing laboratory
MSL-2 and conducted astrophysics experiments. On STS-34, the crew
aboard Atlantis successfully deployed the Galileo spacecraft on its
journey to explore Jupiter. The crew on this mission also mapped
atmospheric ozone levels with the Shuttle Solar Backscatter
Ultraviolet. Instrument (SSBUV) and performed research on the effects
of microgravity in plants.
Chang Díaz’s STS-46 mission resulted
in the deployment of the European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA)
satellite, and the first test flight of the Tethered Satellite System
(TSS). In 1994, Chang Díaz flew on STS-60 a mission that included
the first flight of the Wake Shield Facility (WSF-1) and the second
flight of the Space Habitation Module-2 (Spacehab-2). This mission
also is noteworthy because it was the first joint U.S./Russian Space
Shuttle mission on which a Russian Cosmonaut was a crew member.
When Chang Díaz returned to space on
STS-75, the Tethered Satellite System was once again one of the
primary payloads on the mission. During this flight, the TSS
successfully demonstrated the ability of tethers to produce
electricity. Chang Díaz also flew on STS-91, in which Discovery
spent four days docked to the Mir Space Station and on STS-111, his
final mission in which he installed the Mobile Base System on the
International Space Station where he replace the failed wrist joint
on Canadarm II.
Chang Díaz retired from NASA in July
2005 and then founded Ad Astra Rocket Company, which is dedicated to
the development of advanced plasma rocket propulsion technology. Ad
Astra’s efforts have led to the production of a rocket that has the
theoretical capability of carrying a manned mission to Mars in just
39 days. Chang Díaz was inducted into the U.S.
Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 5, 2012.
More recently, he has been active in
his country of birth, Costa Rica, where he leads the implementation
of The Strategy for the 21st Century, a master plan designed to
transform Costa Rica into a fully developed country before 2050. Dr. Chang Diaz graduated in 1977 with a PhD in plasma physics from MIT.
A US company may have the solution to get humans to Mars in just over a month. They have been given a grant by NASA to try and achieve this. The space agency is pinning its hopes on the Vasimr rocket, which aims to reach the Red Planet in a mere 39 days.
The Ad Astra Rocket company from Webster, Texas, awarded the contract by NASA, is located just a stone’s throw from the Johnson Space Center. The CEO, Franklin Chang-Diaz, who is a former astronaut and flew on seven space shuttle missions, says the new rocket engine has the potential to be revolutionary.
On Jan. 12, 1986, the space shuttle Columbia launched at 6:55 a.m. EST from Kennedy Space Center on the STS-61C mission. It was the first spaceflight for now-NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, who was a Pilot on the STS-61C crew along with Mission Commander Robert L. Gibson, Mission Specialists Franklin R. Chang-Diaz, Steven A. Hawley and George D. Nelson and Payload Specialists Robert J. Cenker of RCA and U.S. Rep. (now Senator) Bill Nelson. During the six-day flight, crew members deployed the SATCOM KU satellite and conducted experiments in astrophysics and materials processing. The mission was accomplished in 96 orbits of Earth, ending with a successful night landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on Jan. 18, 1986.