Employee Spotlight

April 24, 2024

The stars look very different today: Eiman Jahangir to realize lifelong dream to fly to space

“It’s been a goal and a dream for a long time,” he said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

Eiman Jahangir has trained with astronauts and pusued training privately as part of his dream of space travel. Photo courtesy Eiman Jahangir.

Associate professor of Medicine and Radiology and director of Cardio-Oncology Eiman Jahangir, MD, MPH, has been selected by the organization MoonDAO to go into space aboard the Blue Origin rocket, New Shepard, after being chosen in a worldwide contest.

MoonDAO says it received more than 2,200 entries from around the world for the spot on the rocket. The organization’s mission is to decentralize and democratize access to space and has crowdfunded two seats on this privately-owned spacecraft, including a prior launch.

“We are excited to have Eiman represent the MoonDAO community in our mission to decentralize access to space,” the organization wrote on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter. “MoonDAO was born out of a wild dream that random strangers on the internet could pool their resources to send someone to space.”

Though Jahangir won his seat by chance, he has pursued becoming an astronaut for more than 15 years. He was twice a finalist to become a NASA astronaut and has participated in multiple simulations to prepare for one day being in space.

“It’s been a goal and a dream for a long time,” Jahangir said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

Jahangir grew up in Nashville, graduated from Martin Luther King Jr. High School, and has been interested in science and space since the age of 4. He and his family (including his brother, Alex Jahangir, MD, MMHC, professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Vanderbilt) would take regular trips to NASA’s U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

His love of science and commitment to service drew him to pursue a career in medicine, but he never lost his interest in space.

Around the time Jahangir obtained his medical degree from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, he took a family trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the astronaut bug bit hard. By the time he arrived at Vanderbilt for a clinical fellowship in cardiology, he had researched how to become an astronaut and learned that much of his medical training also prepared him for NASA’s requirements.

He first applied to NASA in 2008, made the shortlist, applied again in 2013, and again was shortlisted. Though he was not selected, he trained with astronauts and pursued training privately. Last year, he was part of a four-person crew sealed into a pressurized habitat called Biosphere 2 for six days. Hermetically sealed and pressurized, he got even more of a taste for space.

Jahangir joined the faculty at Vanderbilt in 2019, and his primary clinical focus has been the care of patients who experience cardiovascular conditions or side effects from their cancer treatments.

“Eiman has been an outstanding member of — and leader within — the Division of Cardiology,” said Daniel Muñoz, MD, MPA, associate professor of Medicine and co-interim director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. “He is a great example of the multi-dimensional passions and pursuits of our faculty. He is so deserving of this opportunity to realize his lifelong dream to travel into space, and in doing so, he will continue to be a great ambassador for VUMC.” 

Jahangir is grateful for the support he has received from VUMC leaders.

“I think it goes back to this — it’s good to work with good people,” he said. “One reason I was happy to come back to Vanderbilt is that it is such a diverse, multidisciplinary institution. Our faculty are encouraged to pursue interests beyond clinical care, whether it’s writing a book, engaging in research, or educating the next generation.

“It’s kind of a crazy, hare-brained idea to say, ‘I want to go to space.’ I think if you say it enough and if you have enough passion, people believe you.”

To view the announcement of Jahangir’s selection, go to https://www.youtube.com/live/XLHrRUxrroY?feature=shared&t=50

A screenshot from MoonDAO’s announcement that Jahangir was going to space.