San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tico astronaut Franklin Chang raises online funds for upcoming documentary film

Costa Rican astronaut and space engineer Franklin Chang this month launched an Internet campaign to raise money for a documentary film that explains how the plasma engine he designed and created works.

The campaign will run through Aug. 12 at, and Chang hopes to raise at least $46,000. If donations surpass that amount, the money will be used to create extra copies of the documentary to be distributed to scientists and universities around the world. If the campaign reaches $100,000, Chang said he would produce a longer version of the documentary.

The former astronaut-turned-entrepreneur also shared a video that explains the campaign, called “Animating VASIMR: The Future of Spaceflight.” His company, Ad Astra Rocket, which has facilities in the United States and Costa Rica, uses all of its funding for the development of the VASIMR rocket engine.

According to Chang, the first launch into space of a mission using his engine will be to the International Space Station in 2014 as part of an agreement between Ad Astra Rocket and NASA.

The Tico astronaut’s dream is that VASIMR can be used in space vehicles for both scientific and commercial purposes, including travel to Mars, in less time than current engines.

On Monday morning, the campaign had collected nearly $10,000. Depending on the amount of the pledge, donators will receive gifts including shirts, hats, coffee mugs and posters. Autographs can be purchased for an extra $25.

Franklin Chang Díaz was inducted into the NASA Hall of Fame in 2012 as one of the astronauts with the most space missions, totaling seven from 1986-2002. He accumulated 66 days off the planet Earth.

In 1986, he became the first Latin American astronaut, and he retired from NASA in 2005 to pursue his dream of starting his own company to develop the plasma engine.


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