Austin, Texas, Jun 8 (EFE).- After vying with more than 18,300 other contenders, Francisco “Frank” Rubio has carved a niche for himself among the 12 astronaut candidates that NASA will train over the next two years to undertake future space missions.
The son of a Salvadoran mother and born in Los Angeles 41 years ago, Rubio was raised in Miami and will now undergo a series of demanding training tasks starting in August and lasting until 2019 with the aim of preparing him to be a NASA astronaut.
Long periods spent working in zero-g, strict diets, spacecraft simulators and even Russian classes – to be able to communicate with his colleagues on the International Space Station – will make up the daily schedule for the Latino, along with his 11 male and female fellow trainees selected this year.
Despite the intense preparation, Rubio already comes to the task with broad experience, both physical and psychological, making him a solid candidate to join NASA’s other Hispanic astronauts.
For instance, he has already logged more than 600 combat flight hours during the US military deployments in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and 1,100 hours of flight time overall piloting a Blackhawk UH-60 helicopter.
Among his military awards and medals is a Bronze Star, and in the academic sphere Rubio graduated from the Military Academy at West Point and obtained a doctorate of medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.
He also served as a surgeon for the 3rd Battalion of the US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group.
Rubio and his wife Deborah have four children and his mother, Myrna Argueta, currently lives in El Salvador.
Other Hispanic astronauts who have played key roles in NASA’s activities and space missions include Mexican-American Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space and the director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston since 2012, who will oversee the training of the incoming class of 12 new astronaut candidates.
Costa Rican-American Franklin Chang Diaz, NASA’s first Latin American-born astronaut although he became a US citizen in 1977, is one of the men who has spent the most time in space, flying on seven missions between 1986 and 2002.
Jose Hernandez, who also went into space, went on to serve for more than 10 years in various posts within NASA.