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Dr. Anil Menon '95 graduates from NASA astronaut training program

Dr. Anil Menon '95 graduates from NASA astronaut training program

On March 5, 2024, SPA graduate Anil Menon '95 was honored at a different kind of graduation: his official completion of the NASA astronaut training program. Along with the eleven other astronauts-in-training in his candidate class, Dr. Menon now joins the ranks of NASA astronauts qualified for missions in space.

Menon's connection to the Twin Cities sparked a number of stories in local media, several of which noted his time at SPA. KSTP-TV interviewed Head of School Dr. Luis Ottley for their story about Menon's achievement, and FOX9's story also mentioned SPA and retired teacher Peggy Keeling Jewitt, who was a particular mentor for Menon duirng his time at the Upper School. The Star Tribune also mentioned SPA in its coverage, referencing the postcards created by SPA Lower School students with messages and drawings of congratulations for Menon, which were displayed at post-graduation reception at NASA headquarters in Houston, as well as the congratulatory video message from the entire school, which was also shown during the reception.

Menon was selected by NASA to join the 12-member 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class out of a pool of 12,000 applicants. Menon was SpaceX’s first flight surgeon, helping to launch its first humans to space during the Demo-2 mission and building a medical organization to support the human system during future missions. Prior, he served NASA as the crew flight surgeon for various expeditions on the International Space Station. Menon is an actively practicing emergency medicine physician with fellowship training in wilderness and aerospace medicine. As a physician he was a first responder during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and the 2011 Reno Air Show accident. In the U.S. Air Force, Lt. Col. Menon supports the 45th Space Wing as a flight surgeon and supported the 173rd Fighter Wing where he logged over 100 sorties in the F-15 and transported over 100 patients as part of the critical care air transport team. Read Dr. Menon's offical NASA bio

Prior to the graduation ceremony, Menon told a NASA interviewer that becoming an astronaut is a dream come true for him: "This was definitely a lifelong dream," Menon said, noting that he first dreamed about space after seeing an IMAX movie on the space shuttle program called The Dream is Alive. "...As a kid, I knew it was potentially unrealistic, like being the President of the United States or something," Menon said, "but I think it was enough to inspire me to go into science. I listened to astronaut’s advice, even in high school. And often they would tell you to find something you love and work at it. I took that advice...and eventually centered on medicine when I saw the impact it could have on helping people. And so I think there was a point there during medical school that I saw there were doctors that worked in space and I was like, 'I can have both and do it at the same time.'...I’ve probably had one of the more long journeys than my classmates or anybody out there, but it’s been wonderful. And so it just goes to show that something can start really early and if you just follow it and stick with it, anything’s possible." Read the entire interview with Dr. Menon