This Week in Space

Sep 22nd 2023

This Week in Space 80

Onward to the Stars

Hosted by Rod Pyle, Tariq Malik

Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz and the VASIMR Plasma Drive

New episodes posted every Friday.
Category: News

Franklin Chang-Diaz rose from arriving in America with $50 in his pocket to earning a Ph.D. from MIT, becoming a NASA astronaut, and flying seven shuttle missions--the first Latin American immigrant to reach space. Since his retirement from NASA, he has worked tirelessly on the VASIMR plasma drive, which promises to one day deliver crews to Mars in 39 days instead of the 6-7 months required by chemical rockets. Join us for this fascinating and inspirational conversation as we talk about an American/Latin American hero and the closest thing to warp drive we're likely to see for a century.

  • Asteroid bits from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx are incoming this weekend after a successful sample grab from asteroid Bennu
  • Private company Varda Space appeals denied reentry license for their prototype capsule
  • Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz introduced - MIT plasma expert, NASA astronaut, ISS builder, and plasma drive inventor
  • Dr. Chang-Diaz recounts being inspired by Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin as a child in Costa Rica, writing to Wernher von Braun about becoming an astronaut, and moving to the US in pursuit of his space dreams
  • He discusses overcoming obstacles as an immigrant learning English, earning scholarships to college and MIT, pivoting to nuclear and plasma physics when NASA cut Apollo funding
  • Dr. Chang-Diaz recalls the excitement of NASA selecting him as an astronaut, flying seven Space Shuttle missions, building the ISS, and spacewalking through an aurora
  • He explains how the nuclear-electric VASIMR plasma engine works, enabling weeks-long Mars trips, its testing status, and the next steps for commercial deployment
  • Dr. Chang-Diaz muses on solar system exploration with continuous VASIMR propulsion, recharging with space nuclear reactors, and mining fuel sources across the planets
  • He reflects on managing danger as an astronaut after losing friends in the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters
  • Dr. Chang-Diaz shares an inspiring vision for space as a cosmic civilization and business enabling humanity to spread beyond Earth

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