The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, has selected 18 astronauts from its corps to form the Artemis Team and help pave the way for the next astronaut missions on and around the Moon as part of the Artemis program.
Vice President Mike Pence introduced the members of the Artemis Team Dec. 9, 2020, which included one Indian-American, Raja Chari, during the eighth National Space Council meeting at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Chari joined the astronaut corps in 2017. A colonel in the U.S. Air Force, he was raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He received a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics.
A U.S. Naval Test Pilot School graduate, Chari worked on F-15E upgrades and then the F-35 development program, before coming to NASA.
“I give you the heroes who will carry us to the Moon and beyond – the Artemis Generation,” Vice President Pence, is quoted saying in a press release, speaking at the meeting. “It is amazing to think that the next man and first woman on the Moon are among the names that we just read. The Artemis Team astronauts are the future of American space exploration – and that future is bright.”
The astronauts on the Artemis Team come from a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise, and experience, NASA noted, adding that the agency’s modern lunar exploration program will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human lunar presence by the end of the decade.
The flight assignments will be announced later and additional Artemis Team members, including international partner astronauts, will join this group, as needed.
The astronauts of the Artemis Team are expected to help NASA prepare for the coming Artemis missions, which begin next year working with the agency’s commercial partners as they develop human landing systems; assisting in the development of training; defining hardware requirements; and consulting on technical development. They also will engage the public and industry on the Artemis program and NASA’s exploration plans.
Apart from Chari, the Artemis Team members include, Joseph Acaba, Kayla Barron, Matthew Dominick, Victor Glover, Warren Hoburg, Jonny Kim, Christina Hammock Koch, Kjell Lindgren, Nicole A. Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir, Jasmin Moghbeli, Kate Rubins, Frank Rubio, Scott Tingle, Jessica Watkins, and Stephanie Wilson.
Chari was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa, graduating from Columbus High School in Waterloo, Iowa. He is married to Holly Schaffter Chari, also a Cedar Falls native, and the couple has three children. His mother, Peggy Chari, lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
The Indian-American astronaut is one of at least three astronaut of Indian origin, among them late Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.
At the time of his selection in June 2017, Chari was a Colonel select in the U.S. Air Force, serving as the Commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the Director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force. He has accumulated more than 2,000 hours of flight time in the 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.
Chari reported for duty at NASA in August 2017 and completed two years of training as an Astronaut Candidate.
He has received several awards, among them the Defense 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 Defense Service Medal and the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal. He was also named distinguished graduate from the US Air Force Academy, Undergraduate Pilot Training, and the F-15E Formal Training Unit.
Before Chari or others engage in the human return from the moon, NASA will send dozens of new science investigations and technology experiments to the Moon beginning in 2021 through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, the agency announced.
For more information on the Artemis Team, visit:https://www.nasa.gov/artemisteam