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Indian American Raja Jon Vurputoor Chari Among Astronauts Named for Next Lunar Missions

Indian American Raja Jon Vurputoor Chari Among Astronauts Named for Next Lunar Missions

  • Vice President Mike Pence introduced the members of the Artemis Team which included Chari, whose father emigrated to the U.S. from Hyderabad.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has selected an initial team of 18 astronauts, including Indian-American astronaut Raja Jon Vurputoor Chari, to form the Artemis Team and help pave the way for the next lunar missions, including sending the first woman and next man to walk on the lunar surface in 2024.

Vice President Mike Pence introduced the members of the Artemis Team on Wednesday, Dec 9, during the eighth National Space Council meeting at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, beneath one of only three remaining Saturn V moon rockets from the 1960s and 1970s Apollo program.

Vice President Mike Pence introduced the astronauts at the close of his final meeting as chairman of the National Space Council. 

“I give you the heroes who will carry us to the Moon and beyond — the Artemis Generation,” said Vice President Pence as he introduced the team to the media present.

“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.”

Chari posted on social media that he was “proud to be part of the big team to get humans to the moon to stay. NASA astronauts aren’t just planning but actually starting to work with the brilliant people at companies around the world helping NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the #Artemis program take the next giant leap #letsgo.”

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.

The U.S. Naval Test Pilot School graduate worked on F-15E upgrades and then the F-35 development program, before coming to NASA.

His father Sreenivas V. Chari emigrated from Hyderabad.

The 41-year-old was among 11 new NASA graduates who successfully completed their basic astronaut training in over two years in January 2020.

The astronauts were selected among 18,000 applicants in 2017 after NASA announced its Artemis program. Chari was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. He reported for duty in August 2017 is now eligible for a mission assignment as he has completed the initial astronaut candidate training.

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The astronauts of the Artemis Team will 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.

The astronauts on the Artemis Team come from a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise, and experience. The members also 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.

As per reports, it’s a fairly young group, with most in their 30s or 40s. The oldest is 55, the youngest 32. Only two — Joe Acaba and Stephanie Wilson — flew on Nasa’s old space shuttles.

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.

NASA said it will announce flight assignments for astronauts later, pulling from the Artemis Team.

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