March 30, 2006
Lt. Col. Marcos Pontes became the first Brazilian to go into space today, riding a Russian Soyuz rocket headed toward the International Space Station. He was joined by American astronaut Jeffrey Williams and a Russian on a mission that will last nine days. Brazil's space program suffered a big setback three years ago when one of their rockets exploded on the launch pad. See CNN.com and Correio do Brasil.
Costa Rican scientist Franklin Chang-Diaz became the first Latin American to go into space in 1986, and ultimately completed seven missions aboard the space shuttles Columbia, Atlantis, Endeavor, and Discovery. He retired as an astronaut in 2002. See nasa.gov.