- Raja Jon Vurputoor Chari will lead Endurance scheduled to lift off Oct. 30 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a six-month-long mission.
Indian American astronaut Raja Jon Vurputoor Chari will be leading SpaceX’s upcoming Crew-3 mission scheduled to lift off Oct. 30 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Chari will serve as the commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, as well as an Expedition 66 flight engineer aboard the station. Crew-3 is SpaceX’s fifth crewed flight to space and its fourth to the International Space Station.
Chari, who will become only the second rookie commander of a spaceflight, will launch with fellow NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron, with the European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer, “aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket to the space station,” he space agency said in a statement.
In the short video clip, Chari revealed the name of the mission. He said the name ‘Endurance’ is “a tribute to the tenacity of the human spirit, as we push humans and machines farther than we ever have.” He added that it is “also a nod to the fact that the development teams, the production teams, the training teams that got us here have endured through a pandemic.”Talking about the SpaceX capsule that the astronauts will use, he further added, “And then of course, just the fact that we are going to reuse this vehicle. So, one of the really cool things about the SpaceX Dragon is, we’ll be the first ones to use Endurance, but it won’t be the last time it’s used.”
Meanwhile, space.com reported, “while the astronauts launching will spend the vast majority of their six-month station stay working hard, they will have a bit of room for some festive fun. The crew will be arriving just in time for Halloween and will also be living in the lab during the winter holidays.”
Born in Milwaukee and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Chari became a NASA astronaut in 2017. He is also a colonel in the U.S. Air Force and has extensive experience as a test pilot with more than 2,500 hours of flight time. At the time of his selection in June 2017, Chari was 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.
The U.S. Naval Test Pilot School graduate worked on F-15E upgrades and then the F-35 development program, before joining NASA in 2017. There, he 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.
Chari received a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics. He is married to Holly Schaffter Chari, also a Cedar Falls native, and the couple has three children.