In 2016, a record number of people applied to be astronauts with NASA – 18,300. Of those, only 12 were accepted.
A senior at Minot State University wants to be one of those 12, so to speak.
“My goal is to become an astronaut,” Michael Sandoval said.
It’s a good conversation starter …
“Everyone’s surprised, everyone’s shocked when they hear it.”
Michael Sandoval is from Plentywood, Montana. The population is less than 2,000.
This small-town kid has always had goals bigger than the galaxy.
“When I graduate high school, I’m going to go and become an astronaut… that’s what I was thinking,” he recalled. “But I couldn’t just walk around and tell people that. Because you might as well go around and tell people you’re going to be a movie star or a rockstar or something like that. So, I knew that if I went around telling people that that no one would take me seriously. That’s what it felt like, anyway.”
So he went on to Williston State College and said he’d become a math teacher.
But two years ago he found his way to Minot State where his major was no longer math education.
Now, his focus is theoretical math, which is one of the many requirements to even be able to apply to NASA.
“I have searched it so many times,” he said. “Like, what are the requirements to become an astronaut?”
It’s not like he can declare as a ‘space major,’ but he did apply for the Space Studies masters program at UND.
It’s designed for exactly what he’s looking for – a career with NASA, SpaceX or the Space Force.
“I’ve always loved space as a kid,” Sandoval said. “I’ve been infatuated with it.”
The 22-year-old will graduate from Minot State in just a couple of weeks and hopes to move on to Grand Forks.
“I love the idea of human life on other planets. I’m super excited for the discoveries that will be made in my lifetime because there’s still so much. And even things happening right now, there’s amazing things happening right now and I’m just super excited for what’s to come and I definitely want to be a part of that history.”
Sandoval recognizes the challenges and is ready to tackle them head-on.
“My professor, he said, ‘I don’t believe any Minot State Alumni have gone on to get careers with NASA or SpaceX.’ And then he looks at me and says, ‘Not yet, anyways.’ And that, just little interactions like that, those are super motivating,” he said with a smile.
He strives to someday spend time at the International Space Station but is taking it one step at a time with his sights set on outer space.
Similar to what Neil Armstrong said … one small step, but one giant leap for a man from Plentywood.
Michael Sandoval is Someone You Should Know.
He explained the process of applying to NASA, it’s pretty long.
Every four years there’s a short window of time when NASA accepts applications.
Applicants must have a master’s degree in a STEM field, at least two years of professional experience after that, or at least a thousand hours of pilot time, and then be able to pass the NASA long-duration flight astronaut physical.
All of which, he says, he looks forward to.