Joseph Acaba is an educator, hydrogeologist, and NASA astronaut. He was born Joseph Michael Acaba on May 17, 1967 in Inglewood, California. Acaba is of Puerto Rican decent. As a child, he enjoyed reading and excelled in both science and math. In 1985, he graduated with honors from Esperanza High School in Anaheim, California. He continued his education, and in 1990, Acaba received his Bachelor’s degree in Geology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Two years later, he earned his Master’s degree in Geology from the University of Arizona. Acaba served as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps Reserves for six years. He also worked as a hydrogeologist in Los Angeles, California. He then spent two years in the Dominican Republic as a part of the United States Peace Corps, training over 300 teachers in the in modern teaching methodologies. Upon his return to the U.S., Acaba moved to Florida and became Shoreline Revegetation Coordinator in Vero Beach. He also taught science and math at Dunnellon Middle School and at Melbourne High School.
On May 6, 2004, Acaba was chosen as an astronaut candidate, making him the first of Puerto Rican heritage to be named as a NASA astronaut candidate. He was selected as an Educator Mission Specialist and completed his astronaut training on February 10, 2006. He was then assigned to the Hardware Integration Team in the International Space Station branch, working technical issues with European Space Agency. His first flight into space was aboard shuttle Discovery on STS-119 as Mission Specialist Educator, which was launched on March 15, 2009. They delivered the final set of solar arrays to the International Space Station. Acaba brought a Puerto Rican flag along with him. On March 20, he provided support to the first mission spacewalk and the next day, Acaba performed a spacewalk to help successfully unfurl the final wings of the solar array that will augment power to the ISS. On March 28, the crew safely landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
On March 18, 2008, Acaba was honored by the Senate of Puerto Rico and was presented with a proclamation by Governor Luis FortuÃ±o. He also received the Ana G. Mendez University System Presidential Medal and an honorary Doctorate from the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico.