Astronauts from 6 space agencies to convene in Costa Rica next week

March 2, 2016

Former astronauts from various international space agencies will share their experiences at a public event at the National Stadium in San José next Wednesday, Mar. 9 from 7-9 p.m.

The International Astronauts Forum is part of a workshop on human space technology, sponsored by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), which Costa Rica will host from Mar. 7-11.

Tico scientist and former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang Díaz will join David Saint Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency, Marcos Pontes of the Brazilian Space Agency; Kenneth Cameron from NASA, and Takao Doi from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and current UNOOSA’s director of the Space Applications Section.

Each one will tell attendees about their paths to becoming astronauts and their experiences in space. They also will present videos specially prepared for the event and will take questions from the audience.

Astronauts also will answer questions sent through social media using the official hashtag: #AstronauTicos.

One of the highlights of the night will be the projection on giant screens of a greeting sent by NASA astronauts from the International Space Station.

UN workshop

Chang said the main goal of next week’s U.N. workshop is to involve developing countries in major global space exploration projects.

“Space exploration has to be democratized. Currently the only countries involved in space travel are the powerful and rich countries and that is not good, we need to change that,” Chang said.

The workshop on human space technology is organized by local NGO Estrategia Siglo XXI, the Costa Rica-based Central American Aeronautics and Space Administration (ACAE) and Chang’s Ad Astra Rocket Company.

It will gather, for the first time in Latin America, some 200 attendants, including experts in space technologies, astronauts and space agency officials from all over the world. They will discuss recent achievements and efforts in human space technology, scientific and research activities, education and international cooperation.

ACAE President Carlos Alvarado Briceño said the Astronauts’ Forum will be the only event open to the public. Entrance is free, but limited to 8,000 people. Organizers will distribute some 2,000 tickets among high school and college students.

Private sponsors will distribute the remaining tickets among the general public through social media and through sweepstakes, Alvarado said. Sponsors include: GBM Costa Rica, Kölbi, Credomatic, Florida Bebidas, Publitickets and RPMTV.

Space Shuttle Columbia Anniversary

Prior to the workshop, on Friday, Chang will join other members of NASA’s STS-61C mission, launched on Jan. 12, 1986 aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. It was the first of Chang’s seven space missions.

The group decided to use the meeting in Costa Rica to celebrate the mission’s 30th anniversary.

Chang will join former Columbia crew members: Robert L. Gibson, commander; Charles Bolden, pilot and current NASA administrator; William Nelson, mission specialist; and Robert J. Cenker, payload specialist and current Florida congressman.

Among the celebration activities, astronauts will visit ex president Luis Alberto Monge (1982-1986) at his home. Chang recalled that Monge became the first Latin American president to speak live with the crew of a space shuttle mission. STS-61C crewmembers at the time pledged to visit Monge in Costa Rica upon their return to Earth.

“The trip, however, was postponed due to the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy. Now we can finally fulfill that promise,” Chang said on Wednesday.

Space Shuttle STS-61C mission crew
STS-61C mission crew (seated left to right) Charles F. Bolden, Jr., pilot; and Robert L. Gibson, commander. Back row, left to right: payload specialists Robert J. Cenker, Bill Nelson and mission specialists Steven A. Hawley, George D. Nelson, and Franklin Chang Díaz. (Via NASA)
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