Franklin Chang Díaz and the Importance of the Not-So-Distant Future
It’s Wednesday morning and the Silicon Valley is witnessing a rare winter storm in February when Franklin Chang Díaz arrives at the Cummins Electrified Power Milpitas site. Díaz, along with Vice President of Corporate Strategy Thad Ewald and Vice President of Electrified Power Julie Furber are spending the day on a tour of the electrified power sites in Talent, Oregon and Milpitas, California. The group is visiting to see how the teams are bringing innovation to life and delivering for our customers, as well as sharing their own insights and direction for the business.
Franklin Chang Díaz has been on the board of directors at Cummins, as one of twelve board members, for nearly ten years. As a board member, he is focused on representing and protecting the interests of shareholders and positioning Cummins for the future. Prior to Cummins, Díaz spent twenty-five years working at the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA), manning their shuttles and working to build the International Space Station. He also served as the director of the Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center, part of NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center, for twelve years. Díaz is now the chairman and CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company, a U.S. spaceflight engineering company based in Houston, Texas.
As a former NASA astronaut, Díaz has extensive experience looking ahead, planning for the future and bringing to life innovative technology that challenges the limits of reality. Even as a young child, he had big dreams of exploring space. “I arrived in the United States in 1968,” he said. “My father gave me a one-way ticket to Hartford, Connecticut. I didn’t have a return ticket, and my father was very wise. He knew if I had that return ticket, I would have used it.” He attributes his success today to unwavering perseverance in the face of adversity, despite the language barrier and financial trials.
It is this experience looking into the future that allows Díaz to be an important figure at Cummins. Space travel had once been something of a pipe dream, yet we have achieved flights to and from the great beyond. Now, we have turned our energy to a seemingly even greater challenge: the electrification of the most ubiquitous forms of transportation, for both cargo and passengers, right here at home. Díaz oversees this charge at Cummins with the same vigor that he used to spearhead humanity’s ascent into space--with an unapologetic view of what is possible. Although electrification activities have been happening throughout Cummins for many years, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of how we’re delivering electrified solutions for our customers. As technology, infrastructure, regulation and customer demand all evolve, Cummins is positioned to deliver quality solutions now and well into the future.
For Díaz, space is the final frontier. He firmly believes that we will one day find and make homes in space, and that space holds the answers to the future of business and trade. It’s easy to think these ideas are too lofty, overly ambitious or even farfetched, but Díaz stresses there are currently eighty-four hundred metric tons of hardware orbiting the Earth all of which has only been placed in the last half-century.
In some ways, Díaz’s mindset about space – that we’ve only scratched the surface – is similar to that of electrification. Although electrification activities have been happening throughout Cummins for more than a decade, we’re only just scratching the surface on how we’re delivering electrified solutions for our customers. As technology, infrastructure, regulation and customer demand all evolve, Cummins is positioned to deliver quality solutions now and well into the future. With big thinkers and innovators, not so different than Díaz, working together to challenge the impossible, it’s easy to see how we’re only just beginning.