Indian American Astronaut Raja Chari to Return to Earth After Spending 5 Months in Space

  • He has been working and living on the station along with Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer since the mission launch on Nov. 10, 2021.

Indian American astronaut Raja Chari, commander of the NASA SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the ISS, is scheduled to return to Earth later this month. The 44-year-old Chari has been working and living on the station along with Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer since the mission launch on Nov. 10, 2021. 

Chari completed his first spacewalk last month. In a March 24 tweet, he wrote: “Great spacewalks on @Space_Station that reminded me how important the human connection is between operators, trainers, and the ground team. Lucky to have @NASA_Johnson instructors that prepped us to deal with problems since no mission is ever perfect.”

In an earlier tweet, he wrote: “1st spacewalk didn’t disappoint & worked w/ @NASA classmate Kayla Barron installing new solar panel structure on @iss. Cameras don’t do it justice, but do give a sense of how hard it can be to concentrate when there’s so much to look at.”

During their mission, Chari and three crew members contributed to hundreds of experiments and technology demonstrations, NASA said in a press release. They worked on a variety of plant growth experiments, testing new systems for growing crops and studying potentially drought-resistant cotton plants.

In addition, they tested a handheld bioprinter designed to print bandages made from skin cells directly onto a wound, and a miniature scanning electron microscope. The crew members also installed a new device to support studies on fire safety in microgravity and conducted one of the first archaeological experiments in space. Working in pairs, the astronauts also completed four spacewalks to prepare the station for upcoming solar array upgrades by assembling and installing modification kits and successfully replacing a faulty antenna on the Port-1 truss structure.

Chari took to Twitter earlier this month. “Welcomed @SpaceX #Dragon to @Space_Station, @NASA_Johnson team did great coming up w/ solutions to some challenges along the way. Also, a historic step for @NASA to get private industry into low earth orbit.”

On March 30 he tweeted: “Bittersweet seeing 3 of the crew family undock Soyuz @Space_Station. After 1 yr, @Astro_Sabot deserves to get back to family on Earth, but we’ll still process samples left to compare to ground to help @nasa understand effects of long term spaceflight for future #Artemis exploration.”

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The Milwaukee, Wisconsin-born Chari was raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. At the time of his selection in June 2017, Chari was a Colonel selected 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 2,500 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 in August 2017 and completed two years of training as an Astronaut Candidate. He then served as the Director of the Joint Test Team for the NASA Commercial Crew Program

He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He continued on to earn a master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

He is married to Holly Schaffter Chari, also a Cedar Falls native, and the couple has three children. 

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