Johnny Michael Sanders was born March 21, 1953, in Columbia, South Carolina, to Nezzie and the late Jimmy Sanders. His mother still resides in Columbia and he has six brothers and two sisters. He attended Friendship Baptist and Bethlehem Baptist Church in Columbia as a child. Sanders attended Lyon Street Elementary and W. A. Perry Junior High. He graduated from C. A. Johnson Preparatory Academy and received an Associate degree in Applied Science in Instrumentation from San Jacinto College. Currently, he is a senior at University of Houston in Texas.
Sanders is a Vietnam veteran. During his eight-year career in the military, Sanders was assigned to United States Navy Air Training Command Squadrons. In that assignment, he served as an Aviation Ordnance man with the Jet Transitional Training Unity (JTTU) and supported returning American POW’s to jet flight status as pilots. Prior to leaving the Navy, he served with the Navy Attack Squadron as an Ordnanceman on board the USS John F. Kennedy.
Sanders joined Hamilton Sundstrand Company and worked for more than twenty-two years with the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Group at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. As a member of the Engineering Directorate Crew Therman System Division (CTSD), he was assigned as Project Engineer for preparation of the EMU for space flights. In that role he supported all astronaut training and conducted final fitchecks of the EMU for the Space Shuttle STS-1 astronauts prior to the first space shuttle flight. In addition, he was Lead Technician of the EMU Laboratory. During his tenure with the Johnson Space Center, Sanders received numerous awards for support in the Space Suit Development Lab. His most cherished awards include the Astronaut Personal Achievement Award (Silver Snoopy) 1983 STS-6 and the NASA Johnson Space Center Science Advisor 2000 and 2001. Sanders is active in the Galveston, Texas, community. He is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion Post 614 (Judge Adjutant), and the Jerusalem Baptist Church. In addition, he conducts presentations about the Challenger Learning Center. Schools, churches, retirement homes, state museums, and other groups in South Carolina and Texas frequently request return visits from him. He has been married to Barbara Bornes Sanders for twenty-six years. They have one son, James, who is a senior in college.