In Sammy Aragon’s case, the dream became reality by a stroke of luck. It all started several years ago when the Lockwood Elementary first-grader was living in Costa Rica with his family. His grandmother, a Costa Rican Supreme Court Justice, took him to the Children’s Museum in San Jose. There they saw an exhibit on famed Costa Rican astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz, the first Latin American astronaut.
Sammy’s grandmother told him about Diaz and mentioned that she had had the pleasure of meeting him in the past. She noted that Diaz shared the record for the astronaut with the most space flights.
The exhibit ignited Sammy’s interest in space. The young boy told his family that it was his dream to meet Diaz and he even drew a picture for him in the hopes that maybe his grandmother could give it to Diaz in the event that she saw him again.
The Aragon family subsequently moved back to the U.S., where Sammy entered Endeavor Elementary School in Mukilteo. That year, his kindergarten class was slated to watch the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor, but due to weather delays, the launch date was postponed and they never got to see it. Sammy, however, watched it later at home on the NASA website.
“He really got into space after that,” says Hilary Aragon, Sammy’s mother. “He began researching shuttles and rovers and looking at pictures on NASA’s site.
“Then, at the beginning of this school year, after we moved to Bothell and Sammy started first grade at Lockwood, he continued pursuing his interest.”
In conversations, Sammy’s grandmother reminded him of Diaz and the exhibit they had seen together and Sammy reiterated his wish to meet the astronaut.
Then in February, fortuitous circumstances led Sammy and Diaz to be in the same place at the same time.
Unbeknownst to the Aragon family, Diaz was on their flight from Houston to San Jose, Costa Rica. When they arrived, they met Sammy’s grandma in the Diplomatic Lounge, and there was Diaz.
“It wasn’t a planned meeting,” explains Hilary. “My mother-in-law had no idea Diaz would be there. She was the one who saw him first and she pointed him out to Sammy. He got this huge smile on his face and then we went over there to meet him.”
She adds, “He was very kind and talked to Sammy for about five minutes and allowed us to take a picture of him with Sammy. He told Sammy to keep studying and maybe someday he would get to go to Mars.”
Sammy was thrilled to see his hero face-to-face and shared the special experience with his class upon his return.
He says, “It was really cool to meet Franklin. He was really nice.”
The experience resonated with the local boy, who, according to his mom, is even more passionate about space than ever before. “He’s fascinated with everything about it,” she comments. “He wants to read everything he can on it.”
Now Sammy’s dream is to become an astronaut. “Astronauts get to do cool stuff,” he says. “They get to do experiments and explorations, and they get to do space walks.” He adds, “I’m going to go to Mars one day.”