After 18 months of intense astronaut candidate training, Los Angeles native and former Florida middle school science teacher Joe Acaba has graduated and is a NASA astronaut.

Acaba is available for interviews by satellite from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. CST on Friday. He and 11 classmates received official NASA Astronaut pins in a private ceremony Feb. 10. Media interested in interviewing Acaba should contact Tiffany Travis at (281) 244-1247 by 4 p.m. CST Wednesday.

Acaba, a former Peace Corps volunteer, was a teacher at Dunnellon Middle School in Dunnellon, Fla., when selected by NASA in May 2004. A couple of months later, his astronaut candidate class reported to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to begin training. The training included water and land survival courses, T-38 flight instruction and space shuttle and international space station systems training.

Acaba is now assigned as a mission specialist-educator in the Astronaut Office’s International Space Station Branch and Education Office. He is among three teachers chosen as educator astronauts in 2004. The educator astronauts are now fully qualified NASA astronauts. Their classroom experience will help them develop new ways to connect space flight with the classroom and inspire students. Acaba is a graduate of the University of California-Santa Barbara. He received a master’s from the University of Arizona. For biographical information on NASA astronauts on the Web, visit:

The interviews will be carried live on the NASA Television analog satellite. The coordinates are: satellite AMC-6, at 72 degrees west longitude, transponder 5C, 3800 MHz, vertical polarization, with audio at 6.8 MHz.