NASA Astronaut Joe Acaba
When Joe Acaba was selected as a member of the 19th NASA Astronaut Training Group in May 2004, he became the first person of Puerto Rican heritage to earn this opportunity. Upon completion of his training in February 2006, Acaba was assigned to space shuttle mission STS-119, with his first spaceflight taking place from March 15 to March 28, 2009. On May 15, 2012, Joe Acaba and Russian crew members Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-04M from Kazakhstan, headed for the International Space Station. The three astronauts arrived at the space station two days later and will remain there carrying out various experiments, such as the effect of the weightless environment of space on the human body and a range of different materials, until September this year.
Joseph Michael “Joe” Acaba was born on May 17, 1967, in Inglewood, California. His parents, Ralph and Elsie Acaba moved from their hometown of Hatillo, Puerto Rico, to California in the mid-1960s. Reportedly, from an early age, Acaba enjoyed science fiction and was fascinated with the film footage of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 walk on the moon. He excelled at science and math at school and earned his Bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of California in 1990, as well as his Master’s degree from the University of Arizona in 1992. He went on to serve in the US Marine Corps Reserves for six years, and later as a hydrogeologist in Los Angeles, before spending two years in the US Peace Corps instructing Dominican Republic educators in modern teaching methods. Back in the US, Acaba taught high school science and math for a time before being selected from 99 applicants for NASA’s 19th group of Astronaut Candidates.
During his visit to Puerto Rico in March 2008, Joe Acaba met with schoolchildren at the Science Park in Bayamón, and was honored by the Senate of Puerto Rico. In June 2009, Acaba returned to Puerto Rico for seven days, during which time he interacted with more than 10,000 people interested in his achievements, most of them schoolchildren. He was presented with a proclamation by Governor Luis Fortuño, and received an honorary doctorate from the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, as well as the Ana G. Mendez University System Presidential Medal.
Thanks to ever advancing technology, well-wishers can follow Astronaut Joe Acaba’s exciting journey through his blog on the NASA website.