Indian-American astronaut as a part of NASA SpaceX Crew-3 Mission



Indian-American astronaut is geared up for the maiden spaceflight, with NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission.

Raja Chari along with Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron and European Space Agency’s Matthias Maurer, will be the crew members of a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket.

The mission is scheduled to launch on Saturday, October 30, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the space agency said.

Chari will be the commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Crew-3 mission. And he will be, “responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry”, NASA said.

In fact, Chari will be the first rookie astronaut to command an orbital NASA mission since STS-2 in 1981, which was commanded by Joe Engle. It is the second Crew Dragon mission to be commanded by a rookie astronaut, following the private Inspiration4 mission which Jared Isaacman commanded.

Chari, who became a NASA astronaut in 2017, will serve as an Expedition 66 flight engineer aboard the International Space Station, according to NASA.

He was born in Milwaukee, to an Indian immigrant father and Iowa native mother, but was raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa, which he considers his hometown.

A colonel in the US Air Force, Chari has “extensive experience as a test pilot” — more than 2,500 hours of flight time in the F-35, F-15, F-16, and F-18, including F-15E combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was also deployed in support of the Korean peninsula.

Chari holds a Master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He later went to the US Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland, and the US Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

In 2020, Chari was selected for NASA’s initial 18-member team of astronauts as part of the Artemis Lunar Exploration Programme that aims to help pave the way for the next lunar missions.

In a NASA video posted in 2017, Chari can be heard talking about his early life. “If I ask my mom, she definitely has memories of me as a child talking about being an astronaut. I always knew I wanted to do something related to aviation,” he said.

He is married to Holly Schaffter Chari, who is also from Iowa. His brother Krishna Chari works as an engineer at Microsoft.