Indian-American Raja Chari, selected by NASA to command SpaceX mission

Raja Chari is among the three selected astronauts for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station that is expected to launch in 2021.

Indian-American US Air Force Colonel Raja Chari is among the three astronauts selected by the NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) for SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station.

While NASA’s Tom Marshburn will be the pilot and ESA’s Matthias Maurer will serve as a mission specialist, the 43-year-old Chari would serve as a commander in the mission that is expected to launch in 2021. Raja was among the 18 astronauts who were selected to form the Artemis Team and help pave the wave for the next lunar mission.

Raja Chari became an astronaut in NASA in 2017 and this will be his first spaceflight. He shares his excitement over a tweet saying – “Excited and honored to be training with @astro_matthias and @AstroMarshburn in prep for a trip to the @Space_Station.”

Raja Chari is a colonel in the US Air Force and joins the mission with extensive experience as a test pilot. In his career, he has accumulated more than 2,500 hours of flight time.

This is going to be the third crew rotation mission of SpaceX’s human space transportation system. And it is the fourth flight with astronauts, including the Demo-2 test flight, to the space station through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The three astronauts will become expedition crew members for the duration of their six-month stay after they arrive at the orbiting laboratory. This is, however, will not be the first commercial crew mission to overlap as the Crew-1 astronauts who are already on the station and Crew-2 are expected to coincide in their sojourns for a short period.

“Increasing the total number of astronauts aboard the station is allowing the agency to boost the number of science investigations conducted in the unique microgravity environment,” says NASA.

The programme aims to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective crew access to the space station and low-Earth orbit in partnership with the American aerospace industry.

Tom Marshburn will serve as a pilot in the mission. Before serving in the astronaut corps, Tom Marshburn, the medical doctor served as a flight surgeon at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and later became medical operations lead for the International Space Station.

“The Crew-3 mission will be his third visit to the space station and his second long-duration mission. Marshburn previously served as a crew member of STS-127 in 2009 and Expedition 34/35, which concluded in 2013,” the NASA said about Marshburn.

Matthias Maurer will serve as a mission specialist. It would be his first trip to space, like Chari. Maurer spent 16 days on an undersea mission in 2016, as part of a NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO, space analogue.



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