Astronaut Rick Mastracchio, a Waterbury native, will be carrying a special package of trackable Geocaching tags from Waterbury elementary students when he arrives at the International Space Station in November.

Geocaching is a “treasure hunting” activity that involves searching for small caches that participants place in public parks and other locations throughout the globe.  More than 2 million caches are indexed on the Geocaching home page with GPS coordinates that can be loaded into a handheld GPS or Geocaching’s app on Android or iPhone. Most of the caches are weatherproof plastic boxes that have various items placed by other travelers. Some of those items are trackable items like the small dog tags that Mastracchio that will be taking to the space station. Geocaching participants can track where those items go over time as they are stamped with unique serial numbers.

The program, sponsored by the Waterbury Police Activity League (PAL), is partnering with 11 elementary schools in the Greater Waterbury area including Chase Elementary School, Crosby High School, Rotella Interdistrict Magnet School, Walsh Elementary School, Polk Elementary School and Washington Elementary School.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime interactive educational opportunity that astronaut Rick Mastracchio is providing to the children of Greater Waterbury. Mastracchio is a role model and an inspiration to all public school children and serves as an example of what can be accomplished through hard work,” said Waterbury PAL Vice President and Deputy Chief of Police Fernando Spagnolo.

Mastracchio will be posting pictures of the trackable tags from orbit on a web page set up to track the tag’s journey both in space and on Earth.  Mastracchio will return the items to the schools upon his return.

Mastracchio is a 1978 graduate of Crosby High School in Waterbury. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of Connecticut in 1982 and later received two master’s degrees in electrical engineering and physical science.  His career began began at the former Hamilton Standard (now Hamilton Sundstrand) in Connecticut and later found his way to Houston as a NASA contractor. He was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1996 and flew his first mission in 2000. He flew aboard two subsequent Space Shuttle missions in 2007 and 2010. Mastracchio will launch aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in November with two other crew members from Russia and Japan for the Expedition 38 space station mission that will conclude in March, 2014.

PAL is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities to connect youth with law enforcement through a number of educational and recreational activities.