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Joseph M. Acaba
First Boricua Astronaut
By: Tony (The Marine) Santiago

I found out about Joe Acaba when he was still an astronaut candidate and wrote a short biography about him in Wikipedia. One of the things that we have in common is that he was once a Marine. I wanted to know what was his participation in the USMC and got in touch with him via NASA. We became friends and he even sent my granddaughter, Isabel, an autographed picture and some astronaut stuff. After Joe passed the NASA training and became officially an astronaut, I got in touch with Puerto Rico Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock, who is also a good friend of mine, and told him. Everyone in Puerto Rico was unaware about Acaba and I wanted him to be the first to know. I also recommended that the Puerto Rican Government honor him. As I stated before no one in Puerto Rico knew about Acaba and when McClintock called the local newspapers, he told them "I know something that you guys don't know". On March 2008, the Government sent for Acaba and honored him, Acaba even held a conference in "El Parque de las Ciencias" in the City of Bayamón. On March 15, 2009, Acaba became the first “Boricua” in space and to honor his heritage he took with him the Flag of Puerto Rico and requested that the Puerto Rican folk song “Que Bonita Bandera” be played on the 5th mission day as the wake up call for the whole crew aboard the Discovery Space Shuttle. Here is the short bio. which I wrote.



Joseph Michael Acaba

Joseph Michael "Joe" Acaba (born May 17, 1967) is an educator, hydrogeologist, and NASA astronaut. In May 2004 he became the first person of Puerto Puerto Rican heritage to be named as a NASA astronaut candidate, when he was selected as a member of NASA Astronaut Training Group 19. He completed his training on February 10, 2006 and is currently assigned to STS-119, which was launched on March 15, 2009 to deliver the final set of solar arrays to the International Space Station.
Early years

Acaba's parents, Ralph Acaba and Elsie Herrero, moved from Puerto Rico in the mid-1960s to Inglewood, California. They later moved to Anaheim in the same state. Since his childhood, Acaba enjoyed reading, especially science fiction. In school, he excelled in both science and math. As a child, his parents would always expose him to educational films, but, it was the 8-mm film showing Astronaut Neil Armstrong's Moon landing which really intrigued him about outer space. During his senior year in high school, Acaba became interested in scuba diving and became a certified scuba diver through a job training program which the school had. This experience inspired him to further his academic education in the field geology. In 1985, he graduated with honors from Esperanza High School in Anaheim.

 

Academic Education

In 1990, Acaba received his Bachelor's Degree in Geology from the University of California - Santa Barbara and in 1992, he earned his Master's Degree in Geology from the University of Arizona. Acabá was a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps Reserves where he served for six years.. He also worked as a hydrogeologist in Los Angeles, California. Acaba spent two years in the United States Peace Corps and trained over 300 teachers in the Dominican Republic in modern teaching methodologies. He then served as Island Manager of the Caribbean Marine Research at Lee Stocking Island in the Exumas, Bahamas. Upon his return to the U.S., Acaba moved to Florida where he became Shoreline Revegetation Coordinator in Vero Beach. Acaba taught one year of science and math in high school and four years at the Dunnellon Middle School.

NASA

On May 6, 2004, Acaba and ten other people where selected from 99 applicants by NASA as astronaut candidates. NASA's administrator, Sean O'Keefe, in the presence of John Glenn, announced the members of the "19th group of Astronaut Candidates", an event which hasn't been repeated since 1958 when the original group of astronauts was presented to the world.

Acaba, who is an Educator Mission Specialist, completed his astronaut training on February 10, 2006 along with the other ten Astronaut Candidates. Upon completion of his training, Acaba was assigned to the Hardware Integration Team in the International Space Station branch, working technical issues with European Space Agency (ESA) hardware.

(Photo above left, Teacher-astronaut Joseph Acaba, a first-time spaceflyer, takes time to fill out a survey about life in space while aboard the shuttle Discovery during the STS-119 mission.)

Acaba is assigned to the crew of STS-119 as Mission Specialist Educator, which was launched on March 15, 2009 at 7:43 p.m., after NASA engineers repaired a leaky gas venting system last week, to deliver the final set of solar arrays to the International Space Station. Acaba, who carried on his person a Puerto Rican flag, requested that the crew be awakened on March 19th (Day 5) with the Puerto Rico folklore song "Que Bandera Bonita, La Bandera Puertorriqueña" (What a Beautiful Flag, The Puerto Rican Flag), written in 1971 by Florencio Morales Ramos (Ramito) and sung by Jose Gonzalez and Banda Criolla.

(Photo right: Space shuttle Discovery crew members from left, mission specialist's John Phillips and Steve Swanson, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, pilot Tony Antonelli, mission specialist's Richard Arnold and Joseph Acaba and commander Lee Archambault, leave the Operations and Checkout building on their way to launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Sunday, March 15, 2009)

Recognition

On March 18, 2008, Acaba was honored by the Senate of Puerto Rico, which sponsored his first trip to that American territory since being selected for space flight. During his visit, which was announced by the President of the Puerto Rican Senate, the Honorable Kenneth McClintock, he met with school children at the Capitol, as well as at the Bayamón, Puerto Rico Science Park, which includes a planetarium and several surplus NASA rockets among its exhibits.


Astronauts Begin New Day Aboard Station, Steve Swanson, left, Joe Acaba, right

Click here to view our Man in Space, Joe Acaba, during the space mission.

 



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