NASA / Carla Cioffi
Astronaut Joe Acaba rests outside the Soyuz TMA-04M capsule just minutes after he and two crewmates landed in a remote area outside of the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on Sept. 17.
By Assistant managing editor
updated 9/28/2012 5:09:16 PM ET 2012-09-28T21:09:16

Now that he's returned to Earth from a five-month stay on the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Joe Acaba is still getting used to life on the ground.

Acaba landed in Kazakhstan Sept. 16 after riding a Russian Soyuz spaceship back to Earth with two cosmonauts, Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin. The three spaceflyers had just finished stints as crew members on the Expedition 32 mission of the International Space Station, which orbits Earth 240 miles (386 km) overhead.

"I'm feeling much better, getting used to it, and better and better every day," Acaba told Space.com during an interview Wednesday. "You forget how strong gravity is when you've been gone for a while."

During his tenure in space, Acaba had a hectic schedule of science experiments, space station upkeep duties, and hosting the occasional robotic cargo-delivery spacecraft. In fact, Acaba was present for the very first visit of a privately built vehicle, the Dragon capsule built by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., which docked at the space station May 25.

  1. Space news from NBCNews.com
    1. KARE
      Teen's space mission fueled by social media

      Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: "Astronaut Abby" is at the controls of a social-media machine that is launching the 15-year-old from Minnesota to Kazakhstan this month for the liftoff of the International Space Station's next crew.

    2. Buzz Aldrin's vision for journey to Mars
    3. Giant black hole may be cooking up meals
    4. Watch a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse online

Dragon delivered a load of food, clothes and supplies as a trial run for a series of 12 delivery hauls the company is contracted for by NASA.

"I was pretty fortunate — I arrived and then four days later, Dragon showed up, and so it was a real busy time for my first part of the increment," Acaba said. "It was very nice to be part of that first docking of a commercial vehicle, and we really enjoyed it, and it was a great milestone." [ Video: Joe Acaba Encounters 'The Avengers' and Dragon in Space ]

But it wasn't all work and no play in space. Acaba was the mastermind behind the plan to screen the movie "The Avengers" on the space station while he was there. A self-professed comics fan, the astronaut worked with NASA, Marvel Comics and Disney to uplink the film to the orbiting outpost in June.

"It's really nice to have a movie night," Acaba said. "As a crew, we're very integrated. Just like here on Earth, whenever you can get together with family and friends to watch a movie or whatever it may be, it's pretty special, so we enjoyed the movie and we just enjoyed spending time together."

The astronaut gave the movie high grades.

"I thought it was great, but I'm a little biased because I enjoy all the superhero movies, growing up with comics and things like that," he said. "I enjoyed it, and I was very thankful that we were able to get it up there."

NASA
NASA astronauts Sunita Williams (left) and Joe Acaba (center), along with Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide, float inside the International Space Station's cupola in August.

Acaba joined NASA in May 2004, and flew to space for the first time on the STS-119 mission of the shuttle Discovery in March 2009. Before becoming an astronaut, he earned a master's degree in geology, and taught in high school and middle school.

"I was a math and science teacher out in Florida, and I think the teaching profession really gets you pretty well qualified to become an astronaut," Acaba said. "It may not seem that way, but schoolteachers every day, they're in a stressful environment, every day is different, and you need to cope with a wide range of people and different experiences."

Follow Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz  or Space.com @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook  and Google+.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

loading photos...
  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments