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Explained: Who is Raja Chari, the Indian-American astronaut who will command SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission?

Indian-American Raja Chari will command the SpaceX Crew 3 mission, while Tom Marshburn will serve as pilot and Matthias Maurer as a mission specialist.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 23, 2020 12:18:01 pm
Raja Chari. (Twitter/@NASA_Astronauts)

Raja Chari is among the three astronauts selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission. The Indian-American will command the mission, while Tom Marshburn will serve as pilot and Matthias Maurer as a mission specialist. A fourth member will be picked to join the crew on the mission, which is expected to launch in the fall of 2021.

Earlier this year in January, Chari became one of the 11 astronauts to join NASA’s ranks. The new graduates completed more than two years of basic training and became the first to graduate from NASA’s Artemis programme. At the time, the space agency had said its astronaut corps “will expand humanity’s horizons in space for generations to come”.

Who is Raja Chari?

Raja Chari was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. According to his biography on the NASA website, he reported for duty in August 2017 and completed the initial astronaut candidate training. Earlier this month, he was selected as a team member for NASA’s Artemis programme, making him eligible for assignments to future lunar missions. Under the programme, NASA wants to send the next man and first woman to the Moon by 2024.

Chari, a US Air Force colonel, hails from Cedar Falls in Iowa. He graduated from the US Air Force Academy with a Bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He earned a Master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland.

Chari served as the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California.

The SpaceX mission would mark his first spaceflight. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

Raja Chari with Tom Marshburn and Matthias Maurer (Twitter/@NASA_Astronauts)

What is the SpaceX Crew-3 mission?

The Crew-3 mission is part of NASA’s contract with SpaceX, under its Commercial Crew Programme, as per which SpaceX will provide six crew missions to the ISS for NASA astronauts. The idea is to provide reliable, safe and cost-effective crew access to the space station and the low-Earth orbit.

The crew members will spend six months at the ISS. They stay will overlap for a short duration with the Crew-2 astronauts.

NASA said increasing the total number of astronauts aboard the space station is helping boost the number of science investigations that are being conducted in the microgravity environment. 

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