University of Central Florida student Rene Diaz calls his plan to be an astronaut “the road of Buzz Aldrin.” Diaz does more than dream of being an astronaut; he devours opportunities to get himself chosen. He researched every astronaut and spoke with Aldrin and several others to see what got each selected. (Aldrin, as an MIT doctoral student, made himself an expert in a critical space maneuver necessary for journeying to the moon.)

Diaz decided to be the expert in things like mining helium 3 ions on the moon for fusion fuel. As a freshman, he volunteered his way onto a research project and wound up with a published paper, the goal of grad students and doctoral candidates everywhere. Diaz is on track for a double major in mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering in 2011. He has worked on a couple of research projects, is UCF chapter president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and is vice president of the ASME’s student board for the Southeast U.S.

President Obama’s nixing of NASA’s manned moon and Mars plans was a “very disappointing” moment for Diaz. But he hopes an international lunar effort might replace a NASA solo venture. “Therefore, I will continue my work in this moon mining development and focusing on the advocacy of this coalition of nations for an international lunar base,” he says.


  • Rene Diaz, 22
  • Senior, University of Central Florida, Orlando
  • Sax days: Diaz played sax at Coral Reef Senior High in Miami.
  • Defining moment: A ride on Mission: Space at Epcot. “I hate to be cliché, (but) it was a life-changing moment for me. While I did love music, I wanted to make a difference in the space industry.”
  • Family: Diaz’s parents are civil engineers, Cubans educated in Azerbaijan when it was still part of the USSR. Seeing no future in communism, they came here from Cuba with Diaz when he was 4.
  • This summer: A research program at Caltech
  • Source: Florida Trend, published 5/1/2010, Trendsetters: Student Leaders by Mike Vogel