|Franklin Ramón Chang-Díaz|
|Born||April 5, 1950
San José, Costa Rica
|Time in space||66d 18h 16m|
|Selection||1980 NASA Group|
|Missions||STS-61-C, STS-34, STS-46, STS-60, STS-75, STS-91, STS-111|
Franklin Ramón Chang-Díaz (born April 5, 1950) is a Costa Rican-American engineer, physicist and former NASA astronaut. He is currently President and CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company. He is a veteran of seven Space Shuttle missions, making him the record holder as of 2008 for the most spaceflights (a record he shares with Jerry L. Ross). He was one of the first Hispanic or Latino Americans to go into space, and is the first naturalized US citizen to become an astronaut.
Chang-Diaz was born in San José, Costa Rica to a father of Chinese descent and a Spanish Costa Rican mother, both Costa Rican-born. He studied at La Salle School, then moved to the United States to finish his high school education. He earned a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Connecticut (where he joined the federal TRIO Student Support Services program) in 1973, and a Sc.D. degree in applied plasma physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1977. For his graduate research at MIT, Chang-Diaz worked in the field of fusion technology and plasma-based rocket propulsion.
Chang-Diaz was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1980 and first flew aboard STS-61-C in 1986. Subsequent missions included STS-34 (1989), STS-46 (1992), STS-60 (1994), STS-75 (1996), STS-91 (1998), and STS-111 (2002). During STS-111, he performed three EVAs with Philippe Perrin as part of the construction of the International Space Station. He was also director of the Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center from 1993 to 2005. Chang-Diaz retired from NASA in 2005.
Chang-Diaz is an adjunct professor of physics at Rice University and at the University of Houston. Since December 2009, he has been part of the Board of Directors for the manufacturer Cummins Inc.
After leaving NASA, Chang-Diaz set up the Ad Astra Rocket Company, which became dedicated to the development of advanced plasma rocket propulsion technology. Years of research and development have produced the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR), an electrical propulsion device for use in space. With a flexible mode of operation, the rocket can achieve very high exhaust speeds, and even has the theoretical capability to take a manned rocket to Mars in 39 days.
Due to his career and scientific success, he has been decorated multiple times in Costa Rica and named Honor Citizen by the national legislature. The Costa Rican National High Technology Center (CeNAT), among other institutions, is named after him.
His surname of "Chang" is his father's and "Diaz" is his mother's, which follows the usual naming system in Latin America. However, as it is also common to go by only the paternal surname, he is also referred to simply as Franklin Chang.