Toreros Train for Space

Toreros Train for Space

Matthew Dominick and Jonny Kim each won a lottery — on the same day. The prize? These two University of San Diego alumni are among 12 people to be chosen from a record-breaking 18,000-plus applicant pool to become NASA’s newest astronaut candidates.

A June 7 ceremony at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston marked the public introduction of its largest astronaut class since 2000. Dominick, a 2005 Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering graduate in electrical engineering (BS/BA), and Kim, a 2012 USD mathematics graduate, joined Kayla Barron, Zena Cardman, Jasmin Moghbeli, Loral O’Hara, Jessica Watkins, Frank Rubio, Robb Kulin, Warren Hoburg, Bob Hines and Raja Chari as astronaut candidates who were introduced at the ceremony by NASA acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot and United States Vice President Mike Pence.

Dominick, from Wheat Ridge, Colo., is a Navy lieutenant commander. In addition to his USD dual engineering degree, he has a master’s degree in systems engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. A decorated test pilot with nearly 200 flight test carrier landings, Dominick was at sea aboard the USS Ronald Reagan when he learned he’d been selected.

“It was rather surreal. I was running around the ship that night. NASA couldn’t really call me, I had to call them,” Dominick recalled. “I tried to make the phone call right at 2 a.m. I was trying to be professional; I spent about 15 minutes trying to patch through, sending emails to them, but the phone system wasn’t working.”

Kim, from Los Angeles, has put his medical career on hold while he pursues this exciting opportunity. He most recently lived in Massachusetts, serving as a resident physician in emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Kim, 33, earned his doctorate of medicine at Harvard Medical School in May 2016. Prior to attending USD, Kim enlisted in the Navy, where he trained and operated as a Navy SEAL, completed more than 100 combat operations and earned a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat V.

Kim’s vast life experiences have shaped him, and this newest one will only deepen the appreciation for such a humble, dedicated and successful person.

“I would like my short time on this earth to leave something positive for the rest of humanity,” Kim said. “I got the idea planted during medical school that the NASA mission is one of the most high-yield ways to inspire our next generation to want to build a better world tomorrow.”

NASA’s announcement was exciting for both men and their families. At USD, the positive reaction has been palpable.

“I’ve been a president for over 23 years, and there have been very few times that I’ve received news about alums that has engendered more pride throughout the university community,” USD President James T. Harris said. “Literally everyone I’ve spoken to, whether they’re a member of our university community, whether they’re alumni, or even people who have no affiliation with the university, all of them are so excited about the accomplishments of Jonny and Matthew.”

The candidates will begin two years of training at Johnson Space Center in late August. Following that, the astronauts could be assigned to any of a variety of missions, ranging from performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and departing for deep space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket, according to NASA’s website coverage from the June 7 ceremony.

“We look forward to the energy and talent of these astronauts fueling our exciting future of discovery,” NASA’s Lightfoot said. “Between expanding the crew on board the space station to conducting more research than ever before, and making preparations to send humans farther into space than we’ve ever been, we are going to keep them busy. These candidates are an important addition to the NASA family and the nation’s human spaceflight team.”

The 12 new astronaut candidates improves NASA’s astronaut count to 350 since the original Mercury 7 in 1959.

— Compiled by USD News Center staff  

Photos of Jonny Kim and Matthew Dominick are courtesy of NASA

University of San Diego alumni Jonny Kim  '12 (pictured second from left) and Matthew Dominick '05 (pictured third from right, back) join the 2017 NASA astronaut class.University of San Diego alumni Jonny Kim '12 (pictured second from left) and Matthew Dominick '05 (pictured third from right, back) join the 2017 NASA astronaut class.

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