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The Sound of Science - 'Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz'


The Sound of Science - 'Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz'

Welcome to The Sound of Science from WNIJ and NIU STEAM. It’s a weekly series explaining important STEM concepts. Today’s hosts are Jeremy Benson and Newt Likier.

To continue our celebration of National Hispanic History Month, we’re going to talk about Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz, an engineer, physicist, and NASA astronaut.

Chang-Diaz was born in Costa Rica on April 5th, 1950. Even as a young man, he knew exactly what he wanted from life. He told family and friends that he was going to be a rocket scientist and an astronaut—and that’s exactly what he did.

In 1980, he applied to be an astronaut, and a year later, he was the first naturalized US citizen to earn his wings as an astronaut with NASA. During one of his seven missions into space, he even helped with the construction of the International Space Station.

During his career with NASA, he spent around 1,600 hours in space. That includes a little over 19 hours of spacewalks. He retired from NASA in 2005 and went on to develop space-based technology in the private sector, teach at the collegiate level, and advocate for the environment.

But before he achieved all this, he was a young man in a new country. He wasn’t fluent in English, and his family must have felt like they were a world away. He failed several courses in American high school before he got the hang of English, and he faced social and financial difficulties based on his immigration status.

It’s easy to see his story as inspirational, as a parable about how hard work and dedication can overcome any obstacle. But part of his success came from his ability to ask for help, and from those willing to help him. He had teachers during his education that advocated for him and mentored him. And as an adult now, he extends that help to the next generation, especially in encouraging kids to take an active role in protecting the environment.

We encourage everyone to look for opportunities to help one another, and to reach out when you need help.

Email us your questions at niusteam@niu.edu or submit them on Facebook at NIU STEAM.

This has been the Sound of Science on WNIJ, where you learn something new every day.

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