Joe Acaba

Not Your Average Joe

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A baby picture of Joe Acaba

An Average Joe Is Born

Astronaut Joe Acaba was born in 1967 in Inglewood, California, and was the third child of Ralph and Elsie Acaba.

An Average Joe Is Born
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Portrait photo of Joe Acaba as a young boy

The Early Years

Joe grew up in Anaheim, California, along with two older brothers and a younger sister. He watched how hard his parents worked and sacrificed, which taught him the importance of family and hard work.

The Early Years
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Photo of a young Joe Acaba wearing a baseball uniform and holding a baseball bat

Growing Up

Joe loved the outdoors and would go exploring with his friends. He also became fascinated with the space program. As a young boy, Joe recalls watching his grandfather’s reel-to-reel tapes of the Apollo missions. It was then that Joe first thought about becoming an astronaut.

Growing Up
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A school picture of Joe Acaba with outdoor scene in background

Joe loved reading science fiction books. Like so many other kids, he imagined what space exploration must be like and how incredible it would be to become an astronaut. But before he could get to space, he had to grow up like everyone else. There were the classic school pictures…

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A school picture of Joe Acaba in braces

And braces…

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Joe Acaba as a young man and another boy sitting on a trail in the woods

As Joe grew older, he still loved the outdoors and exploring the area around his home. And while he was still interested in space, he decided to pursue a career in Earth science.

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Joe Acaba with his grandparents at his high school graduation

Getting an Education

Joe graduated from high school in 1987. He received a Bachelor of Science in geology from the University of California-Santa Barbara in 1990. In 1992, he earned his master’s in geology from the University of Arizona.

Getting an Education
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Portrait photo of Joe Acaba in his Marine Corps uniform

During college, Joe served his country as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, Reserves.

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Joe Acaba standing outdoors in front of a small home and nearby trees

Wandering Planet Earth/Beyond College

Joe worked for a while as a hydrogeologist (someone who studies water that is underground) in Los Angeles. He joined the U.S. Peace Corps and worked in the Dominican Republic as an environmental education volunteer. From there, Joe went to the Bahamas and was the manager of the Caribbean Marine Research Center at Lee Stocking Island in the Exumas, Bahamas.

At that time, Joe fell in love with teaching. After leaving the marine research center, Joe taught high school science and middle school science and math in Florida.

Wandering Planet Earth/Beyond College
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Portrait of Joe Acaba in his blue NASA flight suit

NASA Came Calling

While Joe was teaching, he found out NASA was encouraging educators to apply to become an astronaut candidate in 2002. In 2004, he got the call of a lifetime, becoming one of three educators chosen in the 2004 astronaut candidates’ class. Joe packed up, left Florida, and traveled to Houston to begin his training.

NASA Came Calling
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The STS-119 crew on the space shuttle Discovery

From Earth to Space

Joe’s first flight was in 2009 aboard space shuttle Discovery on STS-119. Joe flew to the International Space Station with five other crewmates. Joe was a mission specialist, and along with two other astronauts, performed two spacewalks. On the spacewalks, he helped to attach the final pair of power-generating solar array wings and a truss element.

From Earth to Space
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Joe Acaba in space looking at a large water bubble; his face is reflected upside down in the bubble

Four Months in Space

In 2012, Joe spent 123 days aboard the space station, working as a flight engineer for Expeditions 31 and 32. In this role, Joe supported the arrival of the first commercial resupply spacecraft, a SpaceX Dragon, and was the prime robotic arm operator for the capture and release of the third Japanese cargo ship, HTV3. Joe served as the robotic arm operator for two U.S.-based spacewalks that helped restore a critical power unit and exchange a faulty camera on the station’s robotic arm.

Four Months in Space
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Joe Acaba on a spacewalk with Earth and dark space in the background

In the Meantime

In the midst of his work as an astronaut, Joe received his Master of Education degree in curriculum and instruction from Texas Tech University in 2015.

In the Meantime
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Joe Acaba walks next to Expedition 53-54 crew members Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and Mark Vande Hei of NASA in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral at Red Square in Moscow

Star City

Joe had been serving as the Director of Operations in Star City, Russia, to support crew training in Soyuz and Russian Segment systems. In March 2017, NASA announced that Joe would become a crew member of Expeditions 53 and 54 set to launch to the International Space Station.

Star City
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Expedition 53/54 crew portrait with mission patch

And Now…

Joe launched to the station Sept. 12, 2017, and was a flight engineer for Expedition 53. He lived and worked aboard the International Space Station for almost five months. He returned to Earth on Feb. 2, 2018.

And Now…