Son of an Indian immigrant from Hyderabad, Chari will be making his first space flight.
Indian American astronaut Raja Chari will lead NASA’s three man SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station, which is expected to launch in the fall of 2021.
Besides Chari making his first spaceflight, and another NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn as pilot, European Space Agency (ESA astronaut) Matthias Maurer will serve as a mission specialist.
A fourth crew member will be added at a later date, following a review by NASA and its international partners, the US space agency said announcing the selection of the crew by NASA and ESA.
A colonel in the US Air Force, Chari, who became a NASA astronaut in 2017, joins the mission with extensive experience as a test pilot.
He has accumulated more than 2,500 hours of flight time in his career. Chari was selected earlier this month as a member of the Artemis Team and is now eligible for assignment to a future lunar mission.
Born in Milwaukee, Chari considers Cedar Falls, Iowa, where he grew up as his hometown. His father Sreenivas V. Chari immigrated from Hyderabad.
READ: Indian American astronaut Raja Chari in NASA Moon mission (December 10, 2020)
The Artemis Team will help pave the way for the next lunar missions including landing the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024.
Marshburn, who became an astronaut in 2004 will be making his third visit to the space station and his second long-duration mission.
Like Chari, Maurer from the German state of Saarland, will be making his first trip to space with the Crew-3 mission.
When Chari, Marshburn, and Maurer arrive at the orbiting laboratory, they will become expedition crew members for the duration of their six-month stay.
The crew will have a slight overlap with the Crew-2 astronauts, who are expected to launch in the spring of 2021, allowing the agency to boost the number of science investigations conducted in the unique microgravity environment, NASA said.
This will be the third crew rotation mission of SpaceX’s human space transportation system and its fourth flight with astronauts, including the Demo-2 test flight, to the space station through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The goal of the program is to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective crew access to the space station and low-Earth orbit in partnership with American aerospace industry, NASA said.
NASA’s contract with SpaceX is for six total crew missions to the orbiting laboratory. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time, and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbital outpost.
As a global endeavor, 242 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.
India-born Kalpana Chawla was one of the seven crew members who perished in the space shuttle Columbia disaster during re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere in 2003. Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams made two trips to the space station.