Reaching for the Stars: An Interview With Costa Rican Astronaut Dr. Franklin Ramón Chang Díaz

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    The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – As children, we’re often told to “reach for the stars” and live up to our ultimate potential.  One Costa Rican hero who did exactly this is Dr. Franklin Ramón Chang Díaz: astronaut, environmentalist, astrophysicist, and proud Tico-American.

    Dr Chang
    Dr. Chang climbing the space shuttle

    Dr. Chang, who was born in Costa Rica, boarded a plane bound for the United States at the age of 18 with $50 in his pocket and virtually no English in the hopes of pursuing his “American Dream” of being a rocket scientist and astronaut.

    His latest book, Dream’s Journey, describes his candid journey of being a young foreigner in the States, where he smokes pot for the first (and only) time, deals with learning a new language, meets his first wife, and encounters eccentric cat lovers.  Among his many humorous anecdotes, you’ll also get a look deep into the humble and mortal side of Chang – a man that holds a seven time Space Shuttle record and invented a high-powered plasma rocket – as he struggles with loneliness and self-doubt, all set against the backdrop of the controversial 1960s and 1970s.

    Dr. Chang revealed some additional details about his biography and his life to The Costa Rica News:

    What will people be most surprised to read about in ‘Dream’s Journey’?

    Probably many will be surprised to learn about my strong feelings of self-doubt and insecurity with which I have had to wrestle along my path through life. Others may be surprised by the many difficulties and setbacks I encountered along the way and my emotional response to them.

    What inspired you to become an astronaut during your early years in Costa Rica?

    Like many youngsters of my time (and probably today) I have been fascinated with space and the universe since a

    very early age. But it was my mother who really helped me gradually translate the fantasy of a child into the potential reality of a young adult.

    Of your seven spaceflights, which was your favorite and why?

    The first flight will always be my favorite (STS-61C on Columbia) when I first realized the dream of a lifetime and could experience the violence of the liftoff, and the serenity and splendor of space and seeing the planet as I had always imagined I would. It was a sensory overload that I will never forget. My other missions were increasingly more sophisticated, more interesting, more complex, more challenging, but the first flight, for me, was transformational.

    As a promoter of sustainability and environmental protection, what projects are you currently working on?

    In Costa Rica, our company is moving deeply into sustainable clean energy and hydrogen technology for transportation and industry. I believe the country could be a leader in these technologies if we could only trade the easy “no” for the more difficult “yes”.

    What is the single most inspirational thing that your work as an astronaut and

    Chang 1
    of Costa Rica for the Stars

    Has an astrophysicist taught you?

    I often say that we are all astronauts and our planet Earth is, so far, our only ship. Protecting it should be our highest priority and exploring space a close second. Space exploration will ensure our survival as a species and should be democratized and not kept as the playground of only the rich nations. A strong science and technology education, combined with strong human values and ethics will help us achieve that goal.

    Finally, Alajuelense or Saprissa?


    Dr. Chang’s second book, Dream’s Journey, is exclusively available through the Ad Astra Rocket website (for the USA) or by contacting Bruce Callow (for Costa Rica copies) at b[email protected].  You can also get his first biography about his childhood in Costa Rica, Los Primeros Años.

    By Lindsey Vast

    The Costa Rica News (TCRN)

    San Jose, Costa Rica

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