He attributes his success to his cultural upbringing, which emphasized working hard, getting good grades and striving for his best. Out of 2,500 applicants, he was one of 23 that were chosen for NASA astronaut training in 1990.
"Being an astronaut is not something you can plan for necessarily," Chiao explains in this video profile. "In addition to working hard, there's an element of luck, of being in the right place at the right time.
"I was fortunate to be selected. As a basis, culturally, I think education and working hard helped shape who I am, and made me more competitive for the position."
He flew in four space missions and was the commander of Expedition 10, during which he lived inside the International Space Station for six months. Today the former NASA astronaut is an entrepreneur, a motivational speaker and an engineering consultant.
In this Hidden Houston video vignette listen to Chiao tell about his beginnings, his Chinese heritage and his quest for knowledge. Click the picture (above) or here to watch the video, produced by 713News.
Editor's note: Hidden Houston, an interactive multimedia series, aims to reveal the many things that are unique about the Bayou City and its surrounding areas.