Senator’s father faces Mars rocket debate

While local state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz has an electoral challenge this fall, her astronaut father faces a debate of his own—over his plans for a rocket to travel to Mars.

Dr. Franklin Chang-Díaz is a former Space Shuttle astronaut who tied the record for most spaceflights at seven. He teaches physics and astronomy at Rice University in Houston, while also running the Texas-based Ad Astra Rocket Company.

Ad Astra is designing commercial rockets for a possible mission to the planet Mars.

But the head of the Mars Society, a Colorado-based nonprofit promoting Martian exploration, is challenging Ad Astra’s claims that its rockets could make it to the Red Planet in under six months. According to the Mars Society’s website at, society President Dr. Robert Zubrin disagrees with Ad Astra that its rockets are uniquely suited to making the trip.

Zubrin has challenged Franklin Chang-Díaz to a debate at the society’s annual convention in Houston next month. If Chang-Díaz does not accept or show up, the webpage says, Zubrin will debate an empty chair.

Gazette requests for comment from both scientists were not returned by press time.

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