Space Shuttle Missions Remembered During NASA's Anniversary

Oct 11, 2018
Originally published on October 11, 2018 11:14 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


NASA is celebrating an anniversary this month.


Sixty years ago, in October of 1958, it was established as a U.S. government agency and opened its doors for business.

GREENE: And about a decade later, this happened.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Three, two, one, zero. All engines running. Lift off. We have a liftoff.

GREENE: The Apollo 11 mission that saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon.

MARTIN: Later came the Space Shuttle Era, when astronauts flew in over 100 missions and helped build the International Space Station.

GREENE: And one of those astronauts was Franklin Chang-Diaz, who was born in Costa Rica and says he came to the United States when he was 18 years old.

FRANKLIN CHANG-DIAZ: I came here with $50 and a dream. And the dream was to fly in space and to be a rocket scientist. This is what I wanted to be.

MARTIN: But before he could do that, he had to go back to high school.

CHANG-DIAZ: I had to learn English first. That was my first task. I went to a high school. I had already graduated from high school in my native country of Costa Rica. But I had to learn English, so I enrolled again in high school, and I did my senior year all over again.

GREENE: Before he graduated, Chang-Diaz won a scholarship to the University of Connecticut. He was a student there in 1969.

CHANG-DIAZ: Which was the landing on the moon. And, you know, I saw the landing on the moon from the student union at the University of Connecticut. And I guess I felt that I was a little closer to my goal. But then, the president, Nixon, canceled the program a couple years later.

MARTIN: He's talking about the Apollo program, which was canceled in 1972. It wasn't until the Space Shuttle Era started about a decade later that Chang-Diaz would get his chance. And he took it, flying in seven missions.

GREENE: Now it has been some years since Chang-Diaz was orbiting the Earth. But he thinks the future of space travel may provide him with another opportunity.

CHANG-DIAZ: I never closed the door. I love space. Every time I went there, it was more and more familiar. Every time I left it, I longed to go back. I wish everyone could see it.

MARTIN: So do we. Happy 60th to NASA, giving those that dream of space the chance to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.