4 days ago, Raja Chari, an Indian American US Air-Force colonel made headlines by being selected as the Commander of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by NASA and the European Space Agency. 43-year-old Chari will serve as the Commander, while NASA’s Tom Mashburn will be pilot and ESA’s Matthias Maurer will serve duties as a mission specialist for the mission, which is due to launch next year. NASA has announced that a fourth crew member will be added on a later date, following a review process.
Earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence announced a group of 18 astronauts selected by NASA, the “Artemis team” to man a mission to the moon and beyond, and "to help pave the way for the next lunar missions including sending the first woman and next man to walk on the lunar surface in 2024.” Raja Chari was one among these 18 astronauts and the only Indian American.
Chari is the first-ever male Indian astronaut in NASA, and the third of Indian origin; the other two being Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.
Raised in the city of Cedar falls in Iowa, Chari completed his early education from Columbus High School. He graduated from the Air Force Academy with a Bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He then went on to study automated orbital rendezvous and earned a master's degree in astronautics and aeronautics from MIT.
Chari began his training for two years as an astronaut back in 2017. He is joining this mission as an extensively experienced Air Force pilot with over 2500 hours of flying time throughout his career.
"Excited and honoured to be training with @astro_matthias and @AstroMarshburn in prep for a trip to the @Space_Station," Chari said in a tweet. This will be his first-ever spaceflight.