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Astronaut Candidates 2004: | Home
Behind the ScenesAstronaut Candidate Class of 2004
Joe Acaba
IMAGE: Astronaut Candidate Joseph Acaba
2004 Astronaut Candidate Joe Acaba is a teacher from Dunnellon Middle School in Dunnellon, Fla.
Astronaut Candidate Interview:
Joseph Acaba

Q: Joseph Acaba, mission specialist-educator candidate. Congratulations.

A: Thank you.

Tell me what it was like for you when you got the news that you were picked to come and train to be an astronaut.

It was very exciting, almost unbelievable. In my classroom when I received the call, my students were spread out throughout the classroom and the hallway so I could gain some kind of composure. Luckily, my daughter was in that class so I was able to share that with her first. And that was a special moment. It's difficult to explain. I guess it's a feeling anyone gets when they actually achieve a goal they set for themselves. Now is the time to set new goals.

Getting selected as an astronaut candidate at all usually is the result of a lot of dedication and hard work. In your case, you not only worked to earn two degrees in geology, but you spent time in the Peace Corps as a teacher before moving into the classroom. What inspired you to focus your energies and your interests on education?

Well, my parents always stressed the importance of education, and I've been very fortunate to have great teachers throughout my education. I've also had many exciting jobs, very fun jobs. But nothing really felt right until I became an educator. I felt that's where I can best serve is as a teacher. I've been in love with it ever since.

In this class of 11 astronaut candidates are the first of the educator astronauts, and you are one of them. The program that chose you and the others is designed to generate new excitement and new interest in the nation's teachers and students in science and engineering and technology. Tell me how you see you and your fellow educator astronauts inspiring the next generation of explorers.

Well, I think with us now going through the complete training that all the other astronauts go through, we're going to be in a great position to share that with the students. Through our personal excitement, we'll take that back to them and hopefully inspire them to continue with the program. Without them, it doesn't go on.

You and all of your astronaut classmates should be the folks who are on the missions that are going to bring the vision for space exploration to life. You guys are going to be the ones to go to the moon and learn how we go on from there. Tell me your philosophy about the future of humankind moving off of the planet and you getting to be one of the people who do it.

It's exciting. I think it's the next natural step for humans to explore the universe. I'm looking forward to being part of that team. I hope to play a role as both a scientist and as an educator. But a big part of it is to inspire the American people, inspire the next generation of explorers, because they're going to keep the program going. They're going to take us farther than we've ever gone before.


Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 07/15/2005
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