Indian-American among NASA graduates eyeing Moon and Mars mission

11 astronauts receive silver pins from NASA's Artemis programme


January 17, 2020

/ By / Kolkata

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Chari becomes the third Indian-Amrican astronaut to join NASA (image courtesy: Huffington Post)

Chari becomes the third Indian-Amrican astronaut to join NASA (image courtesy: Huffington Post)

An Indian-American astronaut among the eleven graduates of NASA Artemis programme might go to the moon or explore the lands of Mars.

Raja Jon Vurputoor Chari, an Indian-American US Air Force Colonel is among the 11 new graduates of NASA’s who have successfully completed their over two years’ of basic astronaut training and are all set to be a part of the space agency’s ambitious future missions to the International Space Station, Moon and Mars. These 11 graduates received silver pins on January 10, marking their graduation at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston. After they go into space, these silver pins will be exchanged for gold according to NASA traditions.

These successful graduates were selected among the 18,000 applicants in 2017 after NASA announced its Artemis programme. The programme aims to put a man and a woman on the moon in 2024, establish sustainable moon missions by 2028 and ultimately send astronauts to Mars.

“We’re trying to get to the moon to stay by 2024, and we have the technology to do that. We’re working on getting the resources to do that, and it’s gonna take a lot of work, it’s not going to be easy. We won’t be assigned missions for a while but in the mean time we’ll be helping all around Johnson Space Centre with different offices that are working on getting us to the moon,” said Chari in an interview.

Chari’s father, Srinivas Chari came to America from Hyderabad, the capital city of the south-Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, in the 1970s for further education where he met his wife and took up a job. Born and brought up in US, Raja pursued his studies in engineering sciences from the US Air Force Academy and went on to complete his master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He did further studies and graduated from US Naval Test Pilot School.

Speaking about the value of education which he says he inherited from his father he further adds, “One thing from India that he brought with him was that school and education is a privilege, it’s not a right. And that was something that was very, very much enforced in our house and we never took for granted the fact we got to go to school.”

A colonel in the US Air Force, Chari is an accomplished test pilot who has served as the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and as the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force.

With this selection Chari becomes the third Indian-American to join NASA after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams. Space scientist Kalpana Chawla who hailed from Karnal in the north-Indian state Haryana and immigrated to the US had tragically died on her second space mission when Space Shuttle Columbia broke in 2003. She had participated in a mission in the same shuttle in 1987.

Sunita Williams, a navy officer has served as the commander of an International Space Shuttle expedition in 2012. She had been on three other missions, and as a flight engineer in one of them.

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