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Ex-Navy SEAL And Harvard Doctor Becomes First Korean-American To Go To Space

Niamh Shackleton

| Last updated 

Ex-Navy SEAL And Harvard Doctor Becomes First Korean-American To Go To SpaceUS Department of Veterans Affairs/NASA

If being an ex-Navy SEAL and Harvard Medical School graduate wasn’t enough, Jonny Kim is now the first Korean-American to become a NASA astronaut.

The 35-year-old is one of thirteen to have made the cut after graduating from NASA’s Artemis program last week, January 10.


Kim took to Twitter to share his excitement about graduating, and how he is looking forward to ‘making a better future for our world and our children’.

Ex-Navy SEAL And Harvard Doctor Becomes First Korean-American Going To SpaceNASA

The tweet read: 

A true privilege and honor to walk among the @NASA Astronaut Corps with my brothers and sisters. We know there are many qualified and deserving candidates out there – we’re the lucky ones to represent humanity. Let’s work towards a better future for our world and our children.


Two of Jonny’s fellow graduates were from the Canadian Space Agency, while the 11 others, including Jonny himself, were selected from an initial pool of more than 18,000 applicants, according to NASA.

In an interview with NASA, Jonny talked about his family, who came to America in the 1980s as immigrants from South Korea, in the hope for a better life for their children.

Kim graduated high school in Los Angeles, after which he joined the Navy as a Seaman recruit, eventually leading him to achieve the elite status of a Navy SEAL. During his time as a SEAL, he served as a combat medic, sniper, and navigator on more than 100 combat operations across two deployments in the Middle East, as CNN reports.

Ex-Navy SEAL And Harvard Doctor Becomes First Korean-American Going To SpaceNASA

After his time in the Navy, Kim studied mathematics at the University of San Diego, and went on to obtain a doctorate of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He was a resident physician at a hospital at the time he was accepted into the NASA programme in 2017.

When asked why he wanted to become an astronaut, Kim said

I fundamentally believe in the NASA mission of advancing our space frontier all the while developing new technologies and innovations that would benefit all of human kind.


Jonny and his 2017 classmates spent two years training in NASA’s Artemis program, where they were taught an array of skills that would help them qualify as astronauts.

Ex-Navy SEAL And Harvard Doctor Becomes First Korean-American Going To SpaceNASA

The 13 astronauts-to-be were trained in robotics, systems used aboard the space station, as well as exercises that simulate spacewalking. They also learnt how to fly T-38 jets and learnt Russian, due to NASA’s partnership with Roscosmos, for launches to the space station and conversing with the Russian astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Not only will the 13 graduates be able to fly to space, they will also be able to support those who currently work in the space station, while also developing spacecraft for future missions.


I’m not going to lie, I’d hate to be Kim’s sibling because nothing I’d do would ever compare to this guy’s achievements. Way to go, Jonny Kim!

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Topics: News, Astronaut, International Space Station, ISS, NASA, Space


CNN and 2 others
  1. CNN

    An ex-Navy SEAL and Harvard doc is now the first Korean-American headed to space

  2. CNN

    Meet NASA's first astronaut graduates of the Artemis program, eligible for missions to the moon and Mars

  3. NASA Johnson/YouTube

    Jonny Kim/NASA 2017 Astronaut Candidate

Niamh Shackleton
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