It's clear that Anil Menon has had a lifetime of high achievement.

Born and raised in Minneapolis, he won national science awards while attending St. Paul Academy and then got an bachelor's degree in neurobiology at Harvard, followed by a master's in mechanical engineering at Stanford, then a medical degree from Stanford.

The 45-year-old has practiced emergency medicine as a first responder during earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal. He's a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and a pilot who has flown on more than 100 sorties in an F-15 fighter jet. He's an expert in wilderness and aerospace medicine and has served as a flight surgeon for NASA and SpaceX. For fun, he does Ironman races and other extreme endurance events.

Now this high flier, the son of immigrant parents from India and Ukraine, is preparing to take the highest flight of all.

Menon was recently named by NASA as one of 10 new astronaut candidates, selected from more than 12,000 applicants. It's the first new astronaut class named by NASA in four years. Only 360 men and women have been selected as NASA astronauts since the original Mercury Seven in 1959.

Menon's selection is a tribute to his skills and accomplishments, but also to his persistence. He applied four times previously to be an astronaut before finally being accepted.

We talked to Menon about living on the moon, never giving up and how growing up in Minnesota shaped his dream of going into space. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Did you always want to be an astronaut?

A: It was a 40-year goal for me. It started in Minnesota at the Science Museum of Minnesota. They had the Omnitheater there and I saw "The Dream Is Alive." It was an IMAX movie and there were astronauts exploring space, and I knew from going to the Boundary Waters that I loved adventure and exploring. And when I saw that there was a career to explore, I thought "That's the job for me."

Q: But you also got a medical degree. Why?

A: I knew there was this astronaut named Scott Parazynski. He became a doctor and then went on to be an astronaut, and I just loved medicine. My mom got hurt from a bike accident. I thought those doctors at the Hennepin County Medical Center emergency room took such great care of her that I wanted to go into medicine. And I wanted to combine those both and I didn't know that there would be this huge field of space medicine. But I discovered it as I got into medicine and space and found that it was there.

Q: There's not an astronaut candidate class every year. When did you start applying to the program?

A: I started applying in the early 2000s while I was in medical school, and I had probably absolutely no shot at it. But what I kept doing is just working to move forward professionally. So I did what I loved, and I tried to get better and better.

In medical school, I started branching out and learning more things and tried to just expand my world as much as possible. And I kept applying. And each stage, I made it a little bit farther. In 2008, I got an interview. I had just graduated from residency, and I had a pilot's license. And I had done some mechanical engineering. And then I applied in the successive years and came even closer, getting to interviews.

But I never gave up. And I think that's one of the great lessons in my story is just never, never quit. Dreams — it doesn't even matter how much older you get — they're always there, there's always possibility and, lo and behold, at age 45 I have this opportunity, which is really cool.

Q: What's it like getting selected as an astronaut this time?

A: I'm really excited to be a NASA astronaut now. The missions are even cooler now. Because we're looking at going to the moon and staying there now, like actually staying there. And that's where medicine will be incredibly important, because people will be there for so long that they'll need a doctor to take care of them. And then after that we're looking to go to Mars. And that's going to happen within my career, within our lifetime. We get to see that.

Q: So you could go to the moon?

A: That is my sincere hope. Yeah, as a NASA astronaut, I hope to be part of the Artemis program that's going to put a sustainable presence on the moon in 2025. And that's right around the corner. We need to work with our commercial partners, with NASA engineers, to make that a reality and I'm excited to be a part of that. It gets me fired up every single day.

Q: You were born a couple years after the last Apollo mission. What do you think the future of human exploration of space should be?

A: I think that we should be pushing it beyond our boundaries all the time, every day and just never stop doing that. So right now what does that mean? That means going to the moon, not just to go there but to stay there. Have people who live there, be able to call home from the moon, then use that knowledge plus ISS [International Space Station] research and push to Mars, and to keep pushing our boundaries. And to do that for a few reasons. One, it's science fiction become reality. It inspires people like me when I was a kid. It's important for all of us to just dream bigger about the future.

Q: How did growing up in Minnesota lead to where you are?

A: Minnesota is the best training ground for becoming an astronaut. It totally shaped my viewpoint. I grew up in Minneapolis as somewhat of a city kid, but as you know, they ice over all the lakes and you're out there skating. You're outdoors all the time. It's just pushes people outside into the environment. And I would spend some summers up at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, doing camps there.

It got me thinking how wonderful it is, and it's becoming a part of my soul. So that when I went into medicine, I thought, "How do you do medicine with less resources like in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area." It got me into wilderness medicine. And it turns out wilderness medicine isn't too different from space medicine.