Jonny Kim, from Santa Monica high school to NASA space program

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Jonny Kim is the child of Korean American immigrants. He grew up in Santa Monica and graduated from high school there. Then he became a Navy SEAL, and graduated from Harvard Medical School to work as a resident physician. A few years ago, NASA picked him to be an astronaut. He’s only in his mid 30s. 

“The one thing I didn't have as a kid was a lot of confidence. And I didn't think being an astronaut was for people like me,” he says. 

He made the decision to join the Navy after experiencing the September 11 terrorist attacks. He was a senior in high school at the time. Since then, he experienced combat situations and lost friends.

“I've had a few instances in my life, most of them life or death situations, where I've viewed the rest of my life as living on borrowed time,” says Kim, who has suffered from survivor's guilt. “And I made a promise to my friends that I'd make the most of it and that it would be service-oriented.”

Kim says this is a great time to be in the space exploration business. 

“We have plans to return to the moon by 2024,” he says. “We're going to have the first woman and the next man put boots on the moon in about four years, and that's going to set the future stage for us to do human missions to Mars.”

Jonny Kim readies for helicopter water survival training at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston. Photo by Josh Valcarcel/NASA (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).



  • Jonny Kim - Astronaut, Santa Monica native, former Navy SEAL