American astronaut Joe Acaba, the first astronaut of Puerto Rican heritage, was working in the International Space Station when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, home to his family and friends. As it happened, just weeks earlier, Hurricane Harvey had flooded Acaba’s home in Houston.
Acaba offered encouragement from 400 kilometers above Earth. “I hope everyone’s doing well and that you take care of yourselves,” he said.
Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on September 20 with devastating winds of nearly 250 kilometers per hour. The storm knocked out power to the entire island and left millions of Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland scrambling for information.
“My parents were born there, so a lot of [my] relatives, cousins, godparents” are in Puerto Rico, Acaba said.
Acaba said he was proud to bring a bit of Puerto Rico with him on the trip, with the flags he brought. “No Puerto Rican can travel without their Puerto Rican flags,” he said.
In August, Acaba was in Russia getting ready for his launch to the International Space Station when his home flooded in Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Friends and colleagues helped dry out his house.
“It was a huge relief to know that there were people at home, taking care of me,” he said.
Clearly, Acaba is someone who helps others when he can. He served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic and was a math and science teacher in Florida before being selected as an astronaut. This is his third spaceflight.
Many have likewise offered support following Hurricane Maria, including President Trump, who tweeted, “We are with you and the people of Puerto Rico. Stay safe!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2017
This article draws on reports from the Associated Press.