NASA selects Indian-American among new 2021 astronaut recruits

Astronaut Candidate Class of 2021. Photo Date: December 3, 2021. Location: JSC Mall. Photographer: Robert Markowitz. Photo: NASA announced its 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class on Dec. 6, 2021. The 10 candidates, pictured here at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are: U.S. Air Force Maj. Nichole Ayers, Christopher Williams, U.S. Marine Corps Maj. (retired.) Luke Delaney, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Wittner, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Anil Menon, U.S. Air Force Maj. Marcos Berríos, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jack Hathaway, Christina Birch, U.S. Navy Lt. Deniz Burnham, and Andre Douglas.
Credits: NASA

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, has chosen 10 new astronaut candidates from a field of more than 12,000 applicants to represent the United States and work for humanity’s benefit in space. Among them is U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Anil Menon.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson introduced the members of the 2021 astronaut class, the first new class in four years, during a Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, event at Ellington Field near NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.

“Today we welcome 10 new explorers, 10 members of the Artemis generation, NASA’s 2021 astronaut candidate class,” Nelson is quoted saying in the press release. “Alone, each candidate has ‘the right stuff,’ but together they represent the creed of our country: E pluribus unum – out of many, one.”

Anil Menon, 45, lieutenant colonel, U.S. Air Force, was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was SpaceX’s first flight surgeon, helping to launch the company’s first humans to space during NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission and building a medical organization to support the human system during future missions.

Prior to that, he served NASA as the crew flight surgeon for various expeditions taking astronauts to 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 Air Force, Menon supported the 45th Space Wing as a flight surgeon and the 173rd Fighter Wing, where he logged over 100 sorties in the F-15 fighter jet and transported over 100 patients as part of the critical care air transport team, NASA said in its press release.

The astronaut candidates will report for duty at Johnson in January 2022 to begin two years of training. Astronaut candidate training falls into five major categories: operating and maintaining the International Space Station‘s complex systems, training for spacewalks, developing complex robotics skills, safely operating a T-38 training jet, and Russian language skills.

Upon completion, they could be assigned to missions that involve performing research aboard the space station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, as well as deep space missions to destinations including the Moon on NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

“Each of you has amazing backgrounds,” Pam Melroy, former NASA astronaut and NASA’s deputy administrator, told the candidates. “You bring diversity in so many forms to our astronaut corps and you stepped up to one of the highest and most exciting forms of public service.”

The 12,000 applicants included U.S. citizens from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands.

For the first time ever, NASA required candidates to hold a master’s degree in a STEM field and used an online assessment tool.

“The women and men selected for the new astronaut class represent the diversity of America and the career paths that can lead to a place in America’s astronaut corps,” NASA said.

The other 2021 astronaut candidates include Nichole Ayers, 32, major, U.S. Air Force;  Marcos Berríos, 37, major, U.S. Air Force; Christina Birch, 35, grew up in Gilbert, Arizona, and graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biophysics; Deniz Burnham, 36, lieutenant, U.S. Navy, calls Wasilla, Alaska, home; Luke Delaney, 42, major, retired, U.S. Marine Corps; Andre Douglas, 35, is a Virginia native with engineering degrees; Jack Hathaway, 39, commander, U.S. Navy, is a native of Connecticut; Christopher Williams, 38, a board certified medical physicist; and Jessica Wittner, 38, lieutenant commander, U.S. Navy;

With the addition of these 10 members of the 2021 astronaut candidate class, NASA now has selected 360 astronauts since the original Mercury Seven in 1959.



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