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Meet the Navy SEAL and Doctor Who’s the First Korean American Going to Space

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A former Navy SEAL and Harvard medical doctor became the first Korean American astronaut at NASA last week.


Jonny Kim, 35, graduated from the agency’s Artemis program with 12 others on Friday, making him eligible to join missions to the International Space Station and other locations, such as the moon and Mars.


The Artemis program aims to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024, while their learnings will be used to send manned missions to the red planet in the future.


The graduates, composed of seven men and six women, include two candidates from the Canadian Space Agency, while the rest — including Kim — were selected from a pool of more than 18,000 applicants in 2017.


Born to South Korean immigrant parents who moved to the U.S. in the early 1980s, Kim spent his early years in Los Angeles.


After graduating from high school, he joined the Navy as a Seaman recruit, eventually earning the coveted Navy SEAL status.


The SEALs (Sea, Air, and Land Forces) are the Navy’s primary special operations force, expertly trained to “deliver highly specialized, intensely challenging warfare capabilities that are beyond the means of standard military forces.”


As a Navy SEAL, Kim served as a combat medic, sniper, navigator and point man for over 100 operations spanning over two deployments to the Middle East.


In 2012, Kim graduated from the University of San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, summa cum laude.

Four years later, he earned a Doctor of Medicine from Harvard Medical School and began his internship with Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency.


Kim’s interest in medicine came about after seeing his friends die in combat.


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