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Picked for Nasa’s 2021 astronaut class, Indian origin Anil Menon is SpaceX's first flight surgeon

Anil Menon, born to Indian and Ukrainian parents and raised in Minneapolis, is a lieutenant colonel in the US air force and was SpaceX’s first flight surgeon.
Anil Menon is among the 10 members of Nasa's 2021 astronaut class. (AFP Photo)
Published on Dec 07, 2021 01:54 PM IST
By | Written by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi

Nasa-turned-SpaceX flight surgeon Anil Menon is among the 10 latest trainee astronauts who will join the 2021 class of the American space agency as it plans for the first human missions to the moon in more than 50 years.

Apart from Anil Menon, a firefighter turned Harvard professor, a former member of the national cycle team and a pilot who led the first-ever all-woman F-22 formation in combat have been picked by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for its new astronaut candidate class in four years.

They were chosen among the more than 12,000 applicants and will now report for duty in January at the Johnson Space Center in Texas, where they will undergo two years of training.

Born to Indian and Ukrainian parents and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Menon is a lieutenant colonel in the US air force and was SpaceX’s first flight surgeon.

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He served Nasa as the crew flight surgeon for various expeditions on the International Space Station (ISS). Menon started as a Nasa flight surgeon in 2014 and supported four long-duration crew members on ISS as the deputy crew surgeon for Soyuz missions Soyuz 39 and Soyuz 43 and prime crew surgeon for Soyuz 52.

In 2018, the 45-year-old Menon joined SpaceX where he started its medical program and helped prepare for the Elon Musk-owned company’s first human flights. He served as the lead flight surgeon for five launches and helped start their research program, private astronaut programs, and worked on the development of the Starship.

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Menon is an actively practising emergency medicine physician with fellowship training in wilderness and aerospace medicine. He was the first responder during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2015 earthquake in Nepal and the 2011 Reno Air Show accident, according to his profile on the Nasa website.

He graduated in neurobiology from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1999 and got his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from California’s Stanford University in 2004. He has a doctor of medicine as well from Stanford Medical School.

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At Harvard, Menon studied neurobiology and conducted research on Huntington’s disease. He later spent a year in India as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar to study and support Polio vaccination.

The Nasa profile said Menon enjoys teaching general aviation as a certified flight instructor and has logged over 1,000 hours as a pilot. He also enjoys endurance races such as Ironman and Kokoro and backpacking with his family.

Menon is married to Anna Menon, who works at SpaceX as the lead space operations engineer, and they have two children.

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