Astronaut Alumnus Visits NROTC San Diego

NASA Astronaut since 2017, CDR Matthew “POJO” Dominick is also an active duty Navy test pilot.

October 25, 2022

CDR Dominick poses with members of the NROTC San Diego Aviation Club.

On Friday, October 14, 2022, Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) San Diego welcomed a visit from its 2005 alumnus Commander Matthew “POJO” Dominick.  A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Astronaut since 2017, CDR Dominick is also an active duty Navy test pilot. 

POJO is a graduate of the United States Navy Test Pilot School and specialized in strike fighter aircraft testing.  He flew F/A-18 Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, and EA-18G Growlers while stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.  His test squadron, the VX-23 “Salty Dogs,” is composed of the Navy and Marine Corps’ carrier-based fixed-wing aircraft, aircrew, and civilian flight test engineers.  While there, CDR Dominick endeavored to improve procedures for landing on aircraft carriers.  These landings are notoriously dangerous and time-consuming skills for new pilots to learn.  He helped test and introduce “Magic Carpet,” software that resulted in a safer and lighter workload on aircrew.  This project resulted in fleet-wide upgrades to Navy and Marine Corps jet software in 2021.  

In addition to a few hilarious tips on being a San Diego midshipman, CDR Dominick recalled the moment he found out he would be an astronaut.  In typical Navy fashion, he was onboard an aircraft carrier without phone service when the 2017 NASA class was notified of their selection.  He had to call the astronaut office himself requesting the status of his job offer.

CDR Dominick urged the students in attendance to take time to appreciate the Navy community surrounding them.  He recalled moments of triumph and challenge as a Junior Officer, knowing the responsibility he had to study well and know his procedures while flying F/A-18s. 

The lecture continued with discussion of astronaut training and gear, international partnerships for space exploration, and family life while working for NASA. This was CDR Dominick’s second Question and Answer session with the NROTC battalion since 2020.  

One attendee of CDR Dominick’s lecture, MIDN Jerrin-James Concepcion, a third-year Aerospace Engineering student, shared his main takeaways from the Question and Answer session.  He reflected on “the importance of teamwork in achieving a greater goal,” giving an example of “the level of trust that CDR Dominick and his peers have for each other in being able to react quickly and safely in high-speed, high-stress environments.” 

Midshipman 2/C Matthew Lee, a third-year Civil Engineering major at San Diego State University, appreciated CDR Dominick’s examples of “innovative engineering that were previously thought of as unobtainable and unrealistic until they were made,” like reusable launch systems.  MIDN Lee went on to say that “space exploration is important because it brings countries together to accomplish like-minded goals which remind us that we’re all humans on the same home, Earth.”  The unitive effect of space exploration “inspires people to keep thinking that some ideas really aren’t as impossible as they seem.”

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