SpaceX engineer Anna Menon will be part of a unique space mission announced Monday by American billionaire Jared Isaacman, who commanded a crewed space mission last year.
Menon is SpaceX’s chief space operations engineer, managing the development of crew operations, and serves as mission director and crew correspondent for mission control, according to a SpaceX press release.
Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4, the U.S. payment processing company that directed the Inspiration4 mission, announced Project Polaris, “a first-of-its-kind designed to rapidly increase human spaceflight capabilities while continuing to serve important planetary Why.” The program will include up to three crewed spaceflight missions that will demonstrate new technologies, conduct extensive research, and culminate in the first crewed flight of SpaceX’s Starship.
The first mission, called Polaris Dawn, is targeted to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2022.
The Polaris Dawn mission has many first-time objectives, so the Polaris Program selected a group of experts who know each other well and can build a foundation of trust as they take on the challenges of this mission. Menon is the mission specialist and medical officer.
In addition to Isaacman, the crew included Menon, veteran Isaacman team member Scott Poteet and SpaceX employee Sarah Gillis.
During his tenure at SpaceX, Menon led the implementation of the Dragon Crew Capability, helped create the Crew Communicator Operator role, and developed critical operational responses to vehicle emergencies, such as fire or cabin decompression. Anna served as Mission Control on several cargo and crew Dragon missions, including Demo-2, Crew-1, CRS-22, and CRS-23. Before joining SpaceX, she spent seven years at NASA as a biomedical flight controller for the International Space Station.
She is the wife of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Anil Menon, an Indian-American doctor, who was selected by NASA in December along with nine others as astronauts for future missions.
Anil Menon, 45, was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to a family of Ukrainian and Indian immigrants.
He was SpaceX’s first flight surgeon, helped launch the company’s first humans into space during NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission, and established a medical organization to support human systems on future missions. He previously served as NASA’s crew flight surgeon, responsible for various expeditions that took astronauts to the International Space Station.
SpaceX said the Dragon mission will utilize the maximum performance of Falcon 9 and Dragon to fly higher than any Dragon mission to date and strive to reach the highest Earth orbit ever flown.
“The Dragon and Polaris Dawn crews will spend up to five days in orbit, during which the crew will attempt the first commercial spacewalks designed to advance human health on Earth and our long-term future Healthy scientific research – duration of spaceflight and being the first crew to test Starlink laser communications in space, providing valuable data for future space communications systems needed for missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond,” the company said.