Astronaut Launches into Space and into Texas Tech Ph.D Program

The College of Education at Texas Tech University announced a NASA astronaut has been accepted to its doctoral program in education.

Joseph Acaba launched May 14 for a four-month tour of duty aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft as part of the team for Mission 31/32 to the International Space Station. He also has been accepted to Texas Tech’s new Blended Delivery Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with Specialization in Science Education for the cohort starting this fall.

Follow Acaba’s mission via Twitter and a blog both linked to

Texas Tech Provost Bob Smith was delighted to learn that the College of Education has successfully recruited a second U.S. astronaut to be a Red Raider.

“When we hired our first Red Raider astronaut, Dean Al Sacco Jr., we underestimated the benefits his appointment would bring to Texas Tech,” Smith said. “We understand that Dean Sacco did play a role in recruiting astronaut Acaba to Texas Tech. Also, we know that both astronauts Acaba and Sacco have a passion for education of youth in science, engineering and technology. Our collective hope is that our Red Raider astronauts will be reaching greater numbers of young learners as astronaut Acaba joins us and progresses in his program.”

Acaba will take classes online in his own personal time after he returns from the mission, said Walter Smith, Helen DeVitt Jones Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and advisor for the doctoral program. The nature of the online classes allows for flexibility.

“Joe has outstanding experience as a science teacher and seasoned astronaut,” Walter Smith said. “He’s joining a cohort of exceptional educators who already possess exemplary science education credentials and will make a difference in the world as a result of their Texas Tech doctorate.”

Raised in Anaheim, Calif., Acaba earned a bachelor’s in geology from the University of California-Santa Barbara in 1990 and a master’s in geology from the University of Arizona in 1992. Acaba was selected as a mission specialist by NASA in 2004 and completed Astronaut Candidate Training in 2006.

Acaba serves in the United States Marine Corps, Reserves, and spent two years in the United States Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. He also was manager of the Caribbean Marine Research Center at Lee Stocking Island in the Exumas, Bahamas.

Juan Munoz, Texas Tech’s vice provost for Undergraduate Education, vice president for Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Com­munity Engagement has known Acaba for more than 25 years, as a schoolmate, a U.S. Marine, a teacher, and now NASA astronaut.

“In every aspect of his life, Joe has distinguished himself,” Munoz said. “I am not surprised that he has carefully selected Texas Tech to begin this new chapter of his life, at one of the country’s great public research universities. We are proud to welcome Joe to Texas Tech, and the Red Raider family.”

Acaba’s space flight experience includes STS-119 Discovery (March 15-28, 2009), the 125th shuttle flight, the 36th flight of Discovery and the 28th shuttle flight to the International Space Station. He accumulated 12 hours and 57 minutes of extravehicular activities in two spacewalks. STS-119 landed at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, having traveled 202 orbits and 5.3 million statute miles.

His teaching experience includes one year of high school science at Melbourne High School, Florida and four years of middle school math and science teaching experience at Dunnellon Middle School, Florida.

Acaba is a member of the International Technology Education Association, the Florida Association of Science Teachers, and the Association of Space Explorers.

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at and on Twitter @TexasTechMedia.

CONTACT: Walter Smith, professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-1998 ext. 446, or