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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Puerto Rican astronaut Acabá tapped to lead NASA’s Astronaut Office

Astronaut Joe Acabá


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has named veteran Puerto Rican astronaut Joe Acabá as chief of the agency’s Johnson Space Center Astronaut Office.

A decorated veteran of multiple space flights and a former U.S. Marine and educator, Acabá is the first person of Hispanic descent selected to lead the office.

Acabá replaces NASA astronaut Drew Feustel, who has been acting head of the office since NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman stepped down late last year.

“Congratulations to Joe Acabá on his appointment as the new head of the Astronaut Office! Joe is a seasoned space pilot and recognized leader who will inspire the next generation of NASA astronauts,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Thursday. “As we build on the unprecedented success of the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit, with our sights set on the Moon and then on Mars, Joe will play a critical role in ensuring that our NASA astronauts prepare for the challenges that await them.”

Acabá will be responsible for managing astronaut resources and operations in his new position. He will also help develop operational concepts for astronaut flight crews and assign crews for future spaceflight missions, including astronauts assigned to fly Artemis missions.

“Our Johnson Space Center team congratulates Joe Acabá on his appointment as Chief of the Astronaut Office,” said NASA Johnson Space Center Director Vanessa Wyche. “We wish him the best as he takes on this exciting new leadership role.”

Acabá, a veteran of three space flights, was born in Inglewood, California. He received a bachelor of science degree in geology from the University of California at Santa Barbara, an master of degree (MS) in geology from the University of Arizona, and another MS in education, curriculum, and instruction from Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

Before being selected as an astronaut in 2009, Acabá was in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and Peace Corps, working as a hydrogeologist and teaching high school.

“Joe is an excellent leader who brings a wealth of experience to the Astronaut Office,” said NASA Director of Flight Operations Norm Knight, who made the selection. “Knowing the importance of this position and the integrity of those who have previously held it, I am confident that Joe will be an outstanding lead for the Astronaut Office, successfully leading our astronauts into an exciting future.”

Acabá has spent 306 days in space, serving as a mission specialist on space shuttle Discovery mission STS-119 and as a flight engineer aboard the International Space Station as part of Expeditions 31 and 32 in 2012 and Expeditions 53 and 54 in 2017-2018. During that time, he participated in three spacewalks to build and upgrade the space station, and assisted with the arrival of the first commercial resupply spacecraft, SpaceX’s Dragon, in May 2012. Acabá was aboard the station when its standard crew went from three to six, allowing NASA and its international partners to double the amount of time spent on research.

Since his return to Earth, Acabá has supported the Astronaut Office in various capacities, including director of operations in Russia and head of the Vehicle Integration Test Office.

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