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Marta Metelko
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1642)

John Ira Petty
Johnson Space Center, Houston
(Phone: 281/483-5111)

October 15, 2003
RELEASE : 03-335
Astronaut Chang-Diaz Wins Discover Magazine Award
Astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz floats with his CD player during the STS 91 mission. Image left: Astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz floats with his CD player during STS 91 mission.

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 beyond.

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 program.

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:

For more information about NASA and its rich history, visit:



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