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 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.

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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 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 @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook  and Google+.

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Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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    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
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    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
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    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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