NASA has 10 new trainees aboard their team at the NASA Johnson centre for a two-year astronaut and space exploration training, its 23rd batch of Astronauts since the first in 1959. Among these trainees is a man of Indian origin – Anil Menon, who joined NASA as an astronaut candidate in 2021 and reported for duty in January 2022.

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. Before joining NASA’s astronaut training, he served as the crew flight surgeon for various expeditions on the International Space Station.

Menon is an actively practising emergency medicine physician with fellowship training in wilderness and aerospace medicine. As a physician, 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 NASA biography.

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. 

Early life and education

Anil Menon was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Ukrainian and Indian immigrants. He is married to Anna Menon, who works at SpaceX, and they have two children. Menon enjoys teaching general aviation as a certified flight instructor and has logged over 1,000 hours as a pilot.

Menon graduated from Saint Paul Academy and Summit School in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 1995. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Neurobiology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1999 and a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, 2004.

He is a Doctor of Medicine from Stanford Medical School’s class of 2006 and has a residency in Emergency Medicine from Stanford University. He also has a fellowship in Wilderness Medicine from Stanford University, class of 2010 and a residency in Aerospace Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, 2012. Menon also has a Master’s in Public Health from UTMB-Galveston, 2012. His current board certification is in aerospace medicine and emergency medicine.

Stint with SpaceX

In 2018, Menon joined SpaceX, where he started its medical program and helped prepare for the 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.

Menon maintains his clinical work by practicing regularly in local trauma centres, most recently California Hospital and Cedar Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles. His research efforts have led to the publication of over 20 scientific articles on emergency medicine and space medicine.

NASA Flight Surgeon

According to NASA reports, 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. He lived and worked in Star City, Russia, for more than six months.

Also read: 10 new space explorers join NASA training for future missions

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