On Wednesday, Ronald Chang, executive director of Ad Astra Rocket Company Costa Rica, presented at the NationalMuseum a detailed plan of how Costa Rica has the opportunity to serve as a vital cog in the first-ever mission to Mars.
Chang is the brother of former NASA astronaut Dr. Franklin Chang, who in 24 years as an astronaut, logged over 1,600 hours in space during seven space missions, making him one of the mosttraveled astronauts in history. Both of the Chang brothers were born in San José.
In his presentation, Ronald Chang explained that his brother created an ion plasma rocket, the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR), which can reach Mars in 39 days. Using technology currently available, a rocket trip to Mars would last eight to nine months.
“Right now, the goal of reaching Mars in unattainable,” Ronald Chang said. “An eight- or nine-month mission leaves astronauts out in space for too long..”
To reach Mars, Chang said Ad Astra Rocket Company, in Houston, Texas, and Ad Astra Rocket Costa Rica, based in the northwestern Tico town of Liberia, Guanacaste, are prepared to commit to generating the plasma that would propel the VASIMR. Chang said the undertaking would require an initial loan of $25 million.
“We have met with several businesses across the country and explained to them the importance of putting the Costa Rican name on space travel,” Chang said. “Some have committed to donating money, but the idea of space travel is not as important to Costa Rica as it is to other countries.”
Chang mentioned that few students earn degrees in science in Costa Rica and very small amounts of money are contributed to space exploration.
The Ad Astra Rocket Company anticipates it will need several billions of dollars to create the rocket, though contributions from the U.S., Canada, England and Ireland are expected.