NASA Astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz has won Discover
magazine’s 2003 Innovation Award for Space Science and
Technology, in the Space Explorer category. Chang-Diaz is a
world-class rocket propulsion scientist. The prestigious
awards are to be announced in the magazine’s November issue.

These 14th annual awards honor scientists whose work has
benefited the space program and all humanity. The Innovation
Awards for Space Science and Technology are presented in
Space Explorer, Communications, Space Scientists, Technology
for Humanity, and Aerospace categories.

Chang-Diaz is a veteran of seven space flights, a record he
shares with one other astronaut. He also is director of the
Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space
Center in Houston. There he and his team are developing the
Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR)
Engine, a concept that may eventually enable humans to
explore more distant parts of our solar system and perhaps

Born and raised in Costa Rica, Chang-Diaz came to the United
States after graduating from high school in his native
country in 1967. He arrived in Connecticut speaking no
English and with only $50 in his pocket.

He graduated from Hartford (Conn.) High School in 1969 and
earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University
of Connecticut in 1973. Chang-Diaz got his Ph.D. in applied
plasma physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
in 1977. He later worked in the nation’s controlled fusion

He became an astronaut in August 1981. His first space
flight, in January 1986, was a satellite deployment and
research mission. His most recent flight was an International
Space Station assembly and crew exchange mission in June
2002. He did three spacewalks during that flight.

He remains a national hero in Costa Rica, where his mother,
brothers and sisters still live.

For more information on Chang-Diaz and other astronauts,
visit the astronaut biography website at:

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