QCOSTARICA – The so-called Costa Rican space agency, recently approved by Congress, does not have to be a bureaucratic giant, with a large office that requires a lot of investment, argued Franklin Chang, former NASA astronaut, and director of the Ad Astra Rocket Company.
In a special interview with La Republica, Chang proposes that said agency be initially an enabling instrument that provides legal tools to the country, with an advisor to represent us in space matters.
The astronaut rejects that an expense of up to ¢1 billion a year (US$1.6 million dollars) be made to maintain said office, since it is not necessary to create more bureaucratic cobwebs in the country and less because of the fiscal and economic situation it is going through.
This is what Chang discussed with La Republica, among others. See here the full interview in Spanish.
Q: What do you think of the bill to create a space agency in the country?
A: Although I have not seen the fine print of the bill, the concept is very good and important for Costa Rica, especially now that we inaugurate in April, in Guanacaste, the most sophisticated space radar in the world.
It is important to understand that the agency will be a mechanism that enables us to connect with counterparts from other countries, links that are important for the future, when investments from aerospace companies come. We must prepare to play in the big leagues of the aerospace industry.
The main criticism of the bill is that the agency would be established in the middle of an economic and fiscal crisis, does it really have take a lot of money to establish an agency of this type?
It shouldn’t be, it’s an office. For now, what is needed is simply to have an entity that allows the country to participate in space affairs.
Later, when more projects and investments come in, it could change the dynamics of the office, but for now, it should be something small.
Q: Is the ¢ 5 billion in five years then excessive?
A: As I said, I have not seen the fine print, but what we do not want is that another bureaucratic elephant rises in the country and less in the economic situation in which we are in.
For now, the most important thing is a legal infrastructure, a complex framework of people is not necessary.
I would recommend a small, and efficient office, with an advisor to represent us.
For example, we at Ad Astra Rocket Company have done great things and have only seven employees.
Q: What benefits could the agency have in educational terms?
A: I can tell you that internships at NASA are difficult if there is no counterpart entity to serve as a link.
A student who wants to be an intern must go to the universities and go through a bureaucratic tangle that allows them to opt for the internship. There is no difference between those experiences of the students in the 90s when I was working at NASA with those of today because the mechanisms remain the same.
In Latin America, space agencies are already being formed to facilitate these agreements, as in Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico… that is, we (Costa Rica) are falling behind.
Q: What do you think about Guanacaste being selected as the agency’s headquarters?
A: It is not that Guanacaste has any particularity to be selected over other provinces.
I chose it for the headquarters of Ad Astra Rocket because I like the province, I like the climate and at that time it had the right conditions to establish ourselves.
I would say that Guanacaste has room for development and is not saturated like the Greater Metropolitan Area; the country is highly centralized and it would be good if investments were better distributed geographically.
Guanacaste in particular has a very poor population despite the wealth it houses, and if it is possible to develop an aerospace industry here, it is welcome, as it would be an opportunity for young people to study and get a job.
Franklin Chang Díaz is a Costa Rican American mechanical engineer, physicist, and former NASA astronaut. He is the only founder and current CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company as well as a member of Cummins’ board of directors. He became an American citizen in 1977. He is of Costa Rican Spanish (maternal side) and Chinese (paternal side) descent.
He is a veteran of seven Space Shuttle missions, tying the record, as of 2018 for the most spaceflights (a record set by Jerry L. Ross). He was the third Latin American, but the first Latin American immigrant NASA Astronaut selected to go into space.
Franklin Chang Díaz is a member of the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame.