The first Puerto Rican astronaut was part of a three-man crew that flew into space from Kazakhstan this week.

NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba, who in 2004 became the first Puerto Rican astronaut candidate, accompanied Russian spacemen Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin as they made their way to a four-and-half-month journey to the International Space station. They departed Tuesday at the scheduled 9:01 a.m. local time.

Russia's space agency says the craft is due to dock with the space station Thursday morning Moscow time and will join the three astronauts currently staying at the orbiting laboratory.

The crew, which is being commanded by retired 53-year old Russian Air Force Col. Padalka, will immediately get to work preparing for the arrival next week of privately owned SpaceX's Dragon Capsule. It will be the first time a private company has launched space station supplies.

Joseph Acaba Fun Facts:

BORN: Inglewood, California

EDUCATION: BS, Geology, University of California-Santa Barbara, 1990; MS, Geology, Universtiy of Arizona, 1992

HOBBIES: Enjoys outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, biking, kayaking and scuba diving. 

QUICK FACT: Volunteered for the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic

NASA EXPERIENCE:  Selected as a mission specialist by NASA in May 2004.  In February 2006, he completed astronaut candidate training that included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in shuttle and International Space Station systems, physiological training, T-38 flight training and water and wilderness survival training. 

QUOTE: "When I found out I'd been chosen for astronaut training, I cut my long hair. It's made me the butt of a lot of jokes at school."

Source: NASA/Johnson Space Center

The space station is currently occupied by Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Don Pettit and Holland's Andre Kuipers.

Inglewood, California-native Acaba, who turns 45 on Thursday, on the day that Soyuz is due to dock, makes his second venture into space after his maiden orbital voyage on the shuttle in 2009. Both of his parents were born in Puerto Rico.

"My dad is my hero. He came to the States with very little and worked hard to make sure we had what we needed," Acaba says, according to NASA's website. "He instilled a real work ethic in me."

Padalka is a seasoned space traveler, having spent a total of 585 days in space on three previous missions on board the now-defunct Mir station and the current International Space Station. Revin, 46, is making his first trip to space.

Until NASA either brings a new craft online or private companies are able to arrange manned trips to the orbiting station, the Soviet-designed Soyuz spacecraft will remain the only means to deliver crews to the orbiting outpost.

My dad is my hero. He came to the States with very little and worked hard to make sure we had what we needed.

— Astronaut Joseph Acaba

The Russian space program has been blighted by a string of technical glitches in the recent past, raising questions over its dependability.

Tuesday's launch had been pushed back by two months due to depressurization of the spacecraft's descent module during the ground testing phase. It was the second significant postponement of a manned Russian launch in the space of a year.

A Russian Mars moon probe crashed to Earth in January in what the nation's space agency described as the result of cosmic radiation.

That came only weeks after the crash of a communications satellite and the crash in August of a supply ship destined for the space station.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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