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Educator-astronaut Joe Acaba fuses both world
Educator-astronaut Joe Acaba fuses both world
Educator-astronaut fuses both worlds
Jul 25, 2004
Arizona Daily Star
by Thomas Stauffer, Arizona Daily Star
Though pleased with the news, a UA professor said he's not surprised that Joe Acaba cut NASA's astronaut muster.
"Joe was very good in the field, a very careful observer, and he wrote very well," said Joseph Schreiber Jr., a UA professor emeritus of geosciences. "He was also very conscientious. I remember he always talked about giving something back, referring to going back and teaching."
Acaba, who earned a master's degree in geology from the UA in 1992, was one of three candidates selected for the educator- astronaut program from a field of more than 1,600 qualified applicants.
Unlike the "teacher-in-space" program that trained educators for one specific mission, educator astronauts will train like every other NASA mission specialist for careers with the agency, said Acaba, taking a break from flight training in Pensacola, Fla.
"We'll work on how best to use our experience for education, which is a little different from the other astronauts, but we'll be normal mission specialists able to go on various missions," said the 37-year-old Florida resident.
Acaba was born and raised in Inglewood, Calif., and a scholarship from British Petroleum brought him to the University of Arizona in 1990, he said.
"I wasn't sure what to expect, but when I got to Tucson, I just fell in love with the area and the people," he said. "For job reasons, I left, but it's just a beautiful town and a great school, and I'd love to make it back there someday."
Acaba spent two years working as a hydrogeologist after graduating from the UA, then joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in the Dominican Republic as an environmental educator.
"Once I got done with the Peace Corps, I knew education was where I wanted to go," Acaba said. "It took me a couple of years and a couple of jobs to finally get there, but once I became a teacher, I knew it was what I wanted to do."
A teacher of math and science at a middle school in Dunnellon, Fla., Acaba is five weeks into NASA's two-year astronaut training program. Upon graduation, he'll work alongside pilots, engineers and researchers as a fully trained, permanent member of the astronaut corps.
"It was always a childhood dream to be an astronaut, but since I wasn't a pilot or an engineer, I didn't ever think it would happen," he said. "Training so far has been a lot of fun, but it's also a lot of work. I don't think I've worked this hard in my entire life."
Though shuttle missions are currently grounded, Acaba and his classmates are excited about their roles in NASA's future, he said.
"With this class, we're hoping to develop the new crew exploration vehicle, which will hopefully get to the moon and get us ready to go to Mars, so we're really excited," he said.
Five other former and current NASA astronauts have Tucson-area ties:
* Col. Frank Borman: A pioneer in the exploration of space, Borman was born in Gary, Ind., but raised in Tucson and graduated from Tucson High School in 1946. Borman flew two Gemini missions and was commander of Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon.
* Francis "Dick" Scobee: Scobee earned his bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering from the UA in 1965. The spacecraft commander of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger mission, Scobee and six others died when the shuttle exploded after launch.
* Thomas Jones: Jones earned his doctorate in planetary science from the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in 1988. He logged more than seven weeks in space, including three spacewalks, in four shuttle missions.
* Laurel Clark: Clark once served as a flight surgeon in Yuma and frequently visited her mother and stepfather in Oro Valley. She died at age 41 aboard Columbia in 2003.
* Donald R. Pettit: Pettit received his doctorate in chemical engineering from the UA in 1983. He spent more than five months as a science officer aboard the International Space Station, a mission that included two spacewalks and a return to Earth in a cramped Russian capsule after the suspension of shuttle flights because of the Columbia shuttle disaster.
* Contact reporter Thomas Stauffer at 573-4197 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:
This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?
Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."
In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.
Read the stories and leave your comments.