a Medtronic ICD

Teen Has His Eyes on Space

The son of a Medtronic employee is working toward landing a job at NASA.

If you were trying to pick the next generation of American astronauts, Sebastian Kouchakjy might be a good choice.

At 14, he has already been to Kennedy Space Center in Florida so many times “a lot of the engineers there know us,” he said. He regularly exchanges emails with some of them, including one recently retired NASA engineer who worked on the space shuttle as well as the Apollo and Gemini programs. Sebastian will share with them the results of his latest experiment to be tested in space.

“We’re very proud of him,” said Medtronic employee and Sebastian’s dad, Antoine Kouchakjy. “He has been fascinated by NASA and space since he was four years old. And he has worked extremely hard on this."

For the second year in a row, Sebastian was among just 80 students picked by Cubes in Space to send a science experiment into space. Cubes in Space is a private education program that teams up with NASA to encourage students in science and space exploration. From hundreds of applications submitted worldwide, Cubes in Space selects 80 to put on board a NASA sounding rocket for a 10-15 minute, suborbital journey into space.

In 2016, Sebastian’s idea to test the properties of super glue in space also was chosen for the launch. “This year I wanted to see how zero gravity affects silicone’s ability to seal air leaks,” he said. “Theoretically, silicone should seal tighter in space, because there’s no humidity to weaken it.” 

Antoine and Sebastian Kouchakjy

Antoine and Sebastian Kouchakjy

Sebastian’s father is Antoine Kouchakjy, a regulatory affairs specialist at Medtronic. Sebastian’s family attended the Cubes in Space launch with him at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on June 22. The rocket roared into space shortly after 5:30 in the morning. Six hours later, NASA retrieved the payload and returned the experiments to the students, who will now test them to see what they can learn. 

Sebastian just finished 8-th grade at Lakeside Junior High School in Orange Park, Florida, but already knows where his future lies. He'll be starting in the fall at Orange Park High School’s dual enrollment program in conjunction with St Johns River State College.  After that, he wants to attend Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and then work at NASA. “I want to be an astronaut. Or an aerospace engineer. Either would be fun.”

He’s already off to quite a start. It’s only rocket science, after all.