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A Menon on the Moon? Indian American Surgeon Dr. Anil Menon Among 10 Chosen for NASA’s 2021 Astronaut Class

A Menon on the Moon? Indian American Surgeon Dr. Anil Menon Among 10 Chosen for NASA’s 2021 Astronaut Class

  • A Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, he was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Ukrainian and Indian immigrants.

Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Anil Menon, an Indian American surgeon in the U.S. Air Force is among 10 members of NASA’s 2021 astronaut class, selected from more than 12,000 applications. They will “plan, train and fly missions to the International Space Station and to the moon under Artemis, and eventually onto Mars,” news reports said, quoting Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, during an event announcing the new astronaut candidates at an event near the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Menon, 45, is actively practicing emergency medicine. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Ukrainian and Indian immigrants, according to his NASA profile. The citizen-airman currently lives and works in Houston as an emergency room doctor and flight surgeon for NASA. In the last two years, he’s lived extensively in Russia and traveled to Kazakhstan to help with space launchings and landings. 

He was SpaceX’s flight surgeon on the company’s first flight with humans into space. Before that, he served at NASA as the crew flight surgeon on various expeditions taking astronauts to the International Space Station.

In the U.S. Air Force, 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. He is currently board certified in aerospace medicine and emergency medicine.

Menon is a part of a diverse class that aims to land the first woman as well as the first person of color on the Moon. He is among the three currently serving in the military. “The military is a good place to learn teamwork,” NASA tweeted, acknowledging Menon, Jessica Wittner, and Nichole Ayers. “You also learn to think under pressure. You also get to work with diverse teams to accomplish your mission.”

Menon started as a NASA flight surgeon in 2014. He supported four long-duration crew members on the International Space Station as the deputy crew surgeon for Soyuz missions Soyuz 39 and Soyuz 43 and prime crew surgeon for Soyuz 52. As a member of the Human Health and Performance Directorate, he also served as the medical lead for the health maintenance system and direct return aircraft development.

Menon has a Bachelor’s Degree in Neurobiology from Harvard; a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering and an MD from Stanford. At Harvard, he researched Huntington’s disease and later spent a year in India as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar to study and support Polio vaccination. 

While at Stanford Medical School where he studied engineering and medicine, he worked on coding soft tissue models at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. During his residency training in emergency medicine, he joined the California Air National Guard and gained experience in wilderness medicine through support for remote adventure races like Racing The Planet. 

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Following his residency, he deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom and worked for the Himalayan Rescue Association to care for climbers on Mount Everest. Menon later transferred to the 173rd Fighter Wing for military duty and pursued a residency in aerospace medicine at UTMB-Galveston, where he published his thesis on medical kits for commercial spaceflight, per his NASA profile. 

During his aerospace training, he deployed twice with the U.S. Air Force critical care air transport team to treat and transport wounded warriors. He later transferred to the Air Force reserves, 45th operational group, Detachment 3 of the 45th Space Wing to provide medical direction for launch and landings. He was a first responder during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and the 2011 Reno Air Show accident.

Menon maintains his clinical work by practicing regularly in local trauma centers, most recently California Hospital and Cedar Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, his NASA profile says.

He is married to Anna Menon who works at SpaceX, and they have two children. But the couple didn’t meet at NASA, and they say on their website that it was at an Oscars party that a colleague threw in 2013 when they were first introduced. “We danced to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”, talked for a long time, and only then discovered that we practically worked side by side at NASA,” they say. They eventually became “best friends” and then Menon proposed on their anniversary “at the very place we met.” 

While not at a hospital or NASA, Menon enjoys teaching general aviation as a certified flight instructor and has logged over 1,000 hours as a pilot. He enjoys endurance races and backpacking with his family.

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