After Kalpana Chawla, there had been no person of Indian origin to join NASA as an Astronaut Candidate. Until now.
Raja Chari, 39, a Lieutenant Colonel at the US Air Force and father of three, has been selected from a whopping 18,300 applicants to be part of the 22nd class of American spaceflight trainees, reports FirstPost. This was the highest number of applications that NASA had ever received during an open astronaut call. Chari’s 11 fellow trainees include six military officers, three scientists, two medical doctors, a lead engineer at SpaceX and a NASA research pilot, reports Business Standard.
The class, consisting of seven men and five women, is the largest group NASA has ever selected in over 20 years.
Though originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Colonel Cheri grew up in Cedar City, Iowa. He has a Master’s Degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and an Undergraduate Degree from the US Naval Test Pilot School as well as from the US Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Currently, he acts as commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California, reports Business Standard. Additionally he has over 2000 hours of flight time and has experience in flying in combat missions like ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom.’
Colonel Chari has received Defence Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, an Iraq Campaign Medal, a Korean Defence Service Medal and the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal for his navigating skills as a pilot.
He will be reporting for duty in August and will be undergoing training for two years after which he will work at the NASA Astronaut Office in technical capacity, until he receives a flight assignment.