Press Release

NASA Selects Floridan to be Educator Astronaut

By SpaceRef Editor
June 4, 2004
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Astronaut Candidate Joseph Acaba never thought he would have the opportunity to join the NASA astronaut corps. Then one day he read the announcement for the NASA Educator Astronaut program.

The Educator Astronaut program was developed by NASA to recruit teachers with specific experience and expertise in grades K-12. Educator Astronauts help lead the agency in development of new ways to connect space exploration with the classroom and to inspire the next generation of explorers.

“When I saw the announcement, I felt that everything I had done to this point was in preparation for this job,” Acaba said.

Acaba was born in Inglewood, Calif., and grew up in Anaheim. His parents were both born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York in their teens.

Acaba attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, Calif. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. He received a minority scholarship from British Petroleum to attend the University of Arizona (UA), Tucson, Ariz., where he earned a master’s degree in Geology. During his college years, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and completed a six-year tour.

Acaba worked as a Hydrogeologist for an environmental consulting firm in Los Angeles after graduate school. Although he completed service as a U.S. Marine Reservist, he still felt it was his duty to serve his country. Therefore, in 1994 he joined the Peace Corps. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, he worked in environmental education in the Dominican Republic.

“I felt I had something to give, and I wanted to serve my country from a global perspective. I must also admit, I also looked forward to the adventure and journey. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life,” Acaba said.

On completing his Peace Corps service, Acaba worked as the Island Manager for the Caribbean Marine Research Center. The island is located in the Exumas, Bahamas. Researchers from all over the world visit the island to conduct various marine science and geology research. The island is approximately one square mile in area. It is extremely remote, and all supplies are either flown in or brought by boat.

Acaba later moved to Florida, where he received a job as a Shoreline Revegetation Coordinator. He worked with various school groups and knew that he wanted to be in the classroom. A year later, he was teaching ninth and 10th graders at Melbourne High School in Brevard County, Fla.

Acaba moved to Dunnellon Middle School to teach seventh grade math. After being at the job for a year, he and another teacher started a Science Center at the school for students interested in science and hands-on research. His co-teacher conducted a field research class, and Acaba taught the classroom portion of the science curriculum.

During his third year at Dunnellon, Acaba heard about the Educator Astronaut program and began the application process. On May 6, his astronaut candidacy was announced.

For information about NASA astronaut selection and training on the Internet, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.