Indian-American astronaut Raja Chari training to lead SpaceX mission launching Oct. 31, 2021

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SpaceX Crew-3 Raja Chari. In this image, NASA astronaut and SpaceX Commander Raja Chari trains aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft in Hawthorn California. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Indian-American astronaut Raja Chari is in the thick of training for a mission to space launching tentatively at the end of October.

Chari, for whom it will be the first space flight, will be the Commander of the SpaceX Crew 3 flight which is scheduled to take off for the International Space Station for a long stay in space, NASA announced in a press release Sept. 14, 2021. The crew will complete a six-month science mission aboard the microgravity laboratory in low-Earth orbit.

The Crew-3 mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

This will be the third time that SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket will carry astronauts to the International Space Station for a long duration mission.

The earliest targeted launch date is Sunday, Oct. 31, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA said.

The launch will carry three NASA astronauts – mission commander Chari, pilot Tom Marshburn, and mission specialist Kayla Barron to the space station – as well as European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, who will serve as a mission specialist. Apart from Chari, this is the first spaceflight for Barron, and Maurer as well. It is the third for Marshburn.

Chari was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class and reported for duty in August 2017.

An Iowa native, Chari graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1999 with bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science.

He earned a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. He also logged more than 2,500 hours of flight time in the F-35, F-15, F-16, and F-18, according to the profile provided by NASA.

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