Francisco Frank Rubio has lived many lives in one. First, the Los Angeles-born Salvadorian-American decided to study medicine but took a break to enlist in the U.S. Army, where he flew Blackhawk helicopters in missions to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Eight years later, he went back to his first love and after getting his medical degree, he practiced family medicine as an Army doctor. There, the seed that was planted in his youth sprouted this idea: why not apply to NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class?
Rubio did just that and was one of 12 candidates selected this summer from a pool of 18,000 applicants. For the next two years, he will learn to fly planes and study Russian, among many other things, looking to play a role in NASA’s missions to Mars. “Where else in the world would you hear a story like mine? I’m a kid from a single mom, a teenage mom from El Salvador who worked in all sorts of low-income jobs,” says Rubio, 41, who is married and has four kids ages 7 to 13. “My story is a great story about America. What are the chances that a kid like me would end up being where I am today?”
With education, effort and dedication nothing is impossible. His story can serve to inspire other dreamers like him, said Vice President Mike Pence in Houston, TX, during the July ceremony to present Rubio and his 2017 classmates. “These are 12 men and women whose personal excellence and whose personal courage will carry our nation to even greater heights of discovery”, he said, “and who I know will inspire our children and our grandchildren every bit as much as your forebears have done so in this storied American program.”