San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Plasma-Research Lab Inaugurated Tomorrow

U.S.-Costa Rican astronaut Franklin Chang’s dream of developing a plasma rocket for travel to Mars is set to become one step closer to reality tomorrow when his new space research lab is inaugurated in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.

Chang retired from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 2005 and founded the Ad Astra Rocket Company. The company has two branches, Ad Astra U.S.A in Houston, Texas, and Ad Astra Costa Rica, which will operate the new lab.

The state-of-the-art facilities are located on the Daniel Oduber-La Flor campus of the EARTHUniversity in Liberia, capital of Guanacaste. Chang’s brother, engineer Ronald Chang, who is also Ad Astra’s executive director, will run the lab, where Costa Rican scientists will work on plasma development. Chang’s goal: to develop a rocket propelled by plasma by late 2007 (TT, April 7).

The $1 million building was raised in only six months, with financing from local investors, according to the daily La Nación.

Some finishing touches are still under way, but the Tico engineers are already at work there, along with students from Universidad Veritas in San José, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Florida.

Guests including President Oscar Arias and scientists from around the world will attend tomorrow’s event, scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

For more information on Ad Astra, visit


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