Indian-American astronaut Raja Chari has been selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission that will be launched in 2021. Raja Chari who will be flying to the International Space Station (ISS), will be leading the mission while two other astronauts namely Tom Mashburn and Matthias Maurer will be serving as pilot and mission specialist respectively. A fourth member is yet to be selected for the mission that is expected to be launched in 2021.
.@NASA, @esa select three @SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts:— Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) December 14, 2020
Commander, Raja Chari, @Astro_Raja
Pilot, Tom Marshburn, @AstroMarshburn
Mission Specialist, Matthias Maurer, @astro_matthias
With a 4th astronaut to be added, the crew is expected to launch Fall 2021…https://t.co/JYInDeXbi5 pic.twitter.com/DzB1WBO010
Who is Raja Chari?
Raja Chari is one of the three astronauts selected by the NASA for the SpaceX mission. He was among the eleven astronauts who joined NASA’s ranks in January this year. In 2017, Raja Chari was selected to join Astronaut Candidates Class by the NASA. Earlier this month, he was selected as a team member for NASA’s Artemis programme that made him eligible for assignments to future lunar missions.
Raja Chari, a US Air Force colonel, comes from Cedar Falls in Iowa. He graduated from the US Air Force Academy with a Bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He also holds a Master’s degree in aeronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has served as the Commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California. Raja Chari has accumulated 2500 hours of flight time in his career.
The SpaceX Crew-3 mission
The SpaceX Crew-3 mission is part of NASA’s contract with SpaceX under its Commercial Crew Programme. Under the programme, the SpaceX will provide six crew missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA astronauts. The crew members of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission will spend six months at the ISS. Their stay will overlap with the Crew-2 astronauts for a short time. The Crew-1 astronauts are already on the ISS, while the Crew-2 mission will be launched in March 2021.
NASA is planning to send the next man and the first woman to the Moon by 2024. According to NASA, increasing the total number of astronauts on the ISS is helping in boosting the number of science investigations being carried out in the microgravity environment.
This will be the third crew rotation mission of the human transportation system of SpaceX and its fourth flight with astronauts including the Demo-2 test flight, to the space station through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The programme has the objective of providing safe, reliable and cost-effective crew access to the space station and low-Earth orbit in partnership with the American aerospace industry.
SpaceX is a private aerospace company founded by Elon Musk. After more than 100 launches using its Falcon 9 family of rockets, for various missions like supply missions to ISS and launch of satellites, the company ran the first crew mission in November this year, when four astronauts were sent to ISS. It was the first operational mission to the International Space Station in the Commercial Crew Program of NASA. SpaceX uses its Crew Dragon spacecraft to transport astronauts.