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Meet Raja Chari, the Indian-American fighter pilot selected by NASA for space mission

Among the 12 astronauts chosen by NASA for its 22nd class of American spaceflight trainees is an us Iowa native Indian-American Raja Chari, 39.

A father of three, US Air Force fighter pilot Colonel Chari is the first Indian-American after Kalpana Chawla to join NASA for its 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class.

An experienced pilot with more than 2,000 hours of flight time under his belt, Chari has flown in F-35, F-15, F-16, and F-18, including F-15E combat missions in 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' and deployments in support of the Korean peninsula.

A distinguished pilot, Chari has been awarded the Defence Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, an Iraq Campaign Medal, a Korean Defence Service Medal and the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal.

Indian American astronaut Raja Cheri (kneeling extreme right) in a group photo of NASA's 12 new astronaut candidates with US Vice President Mike Pence in Houston Texas. Reuters

Indian American astronaut Raja Cheri (kneeling extreme right) in a group photo of NASA's 12 new astronaut candidates with US Vice President Mike Pence in Houston Texas. Reuters

Presently a commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Col Chari will report for Astronaut Class in August this year for two years’ training as an Astronaut Candidate.

Upon completion, he will be assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office while he awaits a flight assignment.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Chari was raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where his mother still lives. Chari has a Master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT and bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science from US Air Force Academy.

The seven men and five women comprising the 22nd class of American spaceflight trainees is the largest group Nasa has selected in almost two decades.

It was selected from a record 18,300 applicants — more than Nasa has ever had during an open astronaut call.

To get picked, people had to meet some physical requirements as well as certain education and experience criteria — such as having a bachelor's degree in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field or have accumulated up to 1,000 hours of piloting jets.

After completing two years of training, the new astronaut candidates could be assigned to missions performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and flying on deep space missions on Nasa's new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Jun 09, 2017 16:33 PM

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