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July 2013



Former Astronaut Speaks to Local Students

JMU's summer space camp is in full swing this week and featured a former NASA Astronaut.

Over 100 students are learning about science and space, all in a fun way.

Doctor Franklin Chang Diaz is an astronaut who's flown on the space shuttle a record number of seven times.

He is also the first Hispanic-American astronaut.
He is sharing his story with the JMU space camp explorers.

He says, "You have to persevere, you have to stick with it."

Diaz says since the 1980's, he's noticed a changed in the view of earth from space.

It's a common misconception that country borders cannot be seen.

"You can see borders because deforestation is more prevalent in some areas, and you can see also the earth at night is different."

Diaz says the growth of the human population has become very apparent from space.

And the impact of our consumption is astounding on earth and its atmosphere.

The student explorers are learning, and working to solve problems. Diaz says there are growing opportunities for anyone in the space exploration field.

"One of the things that's happening with space is it's becoming a lot more diverse."

Especially as space becomes more commercialized with private launches.

He says space is something everyone should have the opportunity to see

Diaz says, "In the United States we have about 50 astronauts, if only 50 people out of more than 300 million people can go into space that just doesn't seem fair."

Diaz is no longer flying into space but he is working on a plasma rocket to Mars that would take just days to reach the planet, not months.

He thought of the concept back in the 1970's. So it's been in the works for a long time. He expects to test the rocket in about three years.

For more information, visit jmu.edu/planetarium/.