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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA's first Hispanic astronaut is officially in the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Franklin Chang-Díaz was among three astronauts Saturday who joined John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride in the Hall of Fame.
Chang-Díaz, who was born in Costa Rica, was inducted into the hall of fame in a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center. Two other former space shuttle astronauts, Charlie Precourt and Kevin Chilton, also were inducted.
Chang-Díaz flew seven shuttle missions, a record he shares with former astronaut Jerry Ross.
A plasma physicist with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chang-Díaz helped deploy the Galileo spacecraft on its mission to Jupiter and worked on both the Russian Mir space station and the International Space Station. He left NASA in 2005 to found Ad Astra Rocket Co., where he is working on propulsion systems for travel to Mars.
Chilton piloted the shuttle Endeavour on its inaugural mission, in 1992. He served as a deputy program manager for operations in the International Space Station office at Johnson Space Center before he left NASA in 1998.
Chilton went on to become the commander of Air Force Space Command and Air Force Strategic Command. He retired in 2011 as a four-star general, the highest military rank ever held by a U.S. astronaut.
Precourt and six crewmates were aboard the shuttle Columbia on March 22, 1993, when its three main engines ignited six seconds before their scheduled liftoff. As steam enveloped the shuttle, a liquid oxygen valve sprung a leak, triggering an automatic engine shutdown seconds before the twin solid rocket boosters were to ignite.
Precourt, now an executive at ATK Aerospace Group's Space Launch Division, flew on Columbia in April 1993 after its engines were replaced on the launch pad. He also flew on three shuttle missions to the Russian space station Mir.
Florida Today reports that Saturday's ceremony brings the number of former astronauts in the hall of fame in Titusville to 82. Chang-Díaz, Chilton and Precourt were selected by a panel of current hall of fame astronauts, former NASA officials, historians and journalists.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.