Explained: Who is Raja Chari, the Indian-American astronaut who will command SpaceX’s Crew 3 mission?

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |

December 17, 2020 2:09:33 pm

Raja Chari. (Twitter / @ NASA_Astronauts)

Raja Chari is among the three selected astronauts from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission. The Indian-American will command the mission, while Tom Marshburn will act as pilot and Matthias Maurer as mission specialist. A fourth member will be selected to join the crew on the mission, which is expected to start in the fall of 2021.

In early January of this year, Chari became one of 11 astronauts to join the ranks of NASA. The new graduates completed more than two years of basic training and were the first to graduate from NASA Artemis program. At the time, the space agency had said that its astronaut corps will “expand mankind’s horizons in space for generations to come.”

Who is Raja Chari?

Raja Chari was selected by NASA to participate in the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. According to his biography on the NASA website, he signed up for duty in August 2017 and completed his first training as an astronaut candidate. Earlier this month he was selected as a team member for NASA’s Artemis program, making him eligible for assignments for future lunar missions. As part of the program, NASA plans to send the next man and woman to the moon by 2024.

Chari, a U.S. Air Force Colonel, is from Cedar Falls, Iowa. He graduated from the US Air Force Academy with a bachelor’s degree in astronautics and engineering. He earned a masters degree in aerospace from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland.

Chari served as the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California.

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Raja Chari with Tom Marshburn and Matthias Maurer (Twitter / @ NASA_Astronauts)

What is the SpaceX Crew-3 mission?

The Crew 3 mission is part of NASA’s contract with SpaceX under its commercial crew program, under which SpaceX will provide NASA with six crew missions for NASA astronauts. The idea is to ensure reliable, safe and inexpensive access for the crew to the space station and the near-earth orbit.

The crew members will spend six months on the ISS. They remain overlapped with the Crew 2 astronauts for a short time.

NASA said increasing the total number of astronauts aboard the space station will help increase the number of scientific studies that will be conducted in the microgravity environment.

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