Astronaut Raja Chari on NASA’s top 12 list

NASA introduced 12 new astronauts in a tweet on June 7 and among them is an Indian American named Lieutenant Colonel Raja Chari. Chari is from Iowa and he graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1999 with Bachelor’s degrees in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He then went on to earn a Master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School.

Chari, 39, is a commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and also the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California, reported the Huffington Post.

The candidates were introduced by Vice President Mike Pence and Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, in a ceremony held at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. According to a CBS report, Pence described himself as a “lifelong NASA fan,” and said, “I can’t tell you how privileged and honored I feel today to be able to congratulate the newest class of American heroes, the 2017 class of America’s astronauts.”

He also assured the new astronauts that the Trump administration will remain “firmly committed to NASA’s noble mission — leading America in space.” “We couldn’t go anywhere without the extraordinary men and women of NASA,” Pence added.

The 12 were chosen amongst over 18,000 applicants and soon will begin their two-year intensive training course at the Johnson Space Center before they can qualify for any assignment to future space missions and join the 44 other active-duty astronauts already there.

CBS said that some possible assignments may include flights to the International Space Station aboard new commercial crew ferry ships and eventual flights the vicinity of the moon and eventually Mars using NASA’s Orion spacecraft and heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket.

“These women and men deserve our enthusiastic congratulations,” said Ellen Ochoa, director of the Johnson Space Center and a veteran shuttle astronaut. “We here at NASA are excited to welcome them to the team and look forward to working with them to inspire the next generation of explorers.”

As CBS reported, the new class includes a physician, a surgeon, two geologists, an oceanography engineer, an electrical engineering professor, a SpaceX senior manager, four veteran test pilots and a nuclear engineer. Of the 12 candidates, three of them hold degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and three have graduated from military academies.

Along with Chari, the new candidates are: Kayla Barron of Richland, Washington; Zena Cardman of Williamsburg, Virginia; Navy Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Dominick of Wheat Ridge, Colorado; Bob Hines of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Warren “Woody” Hoburg of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; Jonathan Kim of Los Angeles, California; Robb Kulin of Anchorage, Alaska; Marine Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli of Baldwin, New York; Loral O’Hara of Sugar Land, Texas; U.S. Army Maj. Francisco Rubio of Miami, Florida and Jessica Watkins of Lafayette, Colorado.

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