On Friday evening, 11 future astronauts graduated from NASA’s Houston-based Johnson Space Centre including an Indo-American candidate called Raja Chari, who would be the first ever Indo-American man to go to space.
Chari, whose father Sreenivas V. Chari migrated to the US from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, believes “school and education is a privilege, not a right" that he never took lightly, media reports quoted the 42-year-old astronaut as saying.
Highly-educated, Chari has a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering from the US Air Force Academy and a master’s degree in the subjects of aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After his master’s, Chari joined the US Air Force as a pilot and curerntly holds the rank of colonel.
According to reports, Chari will not be assigned space missions immediately but will be assisting the “Artemis” programme team at the Johnson Space Centre.
As per plan, if by 2024, NASA successfully lands humans on the Moon again, by 2028 it would be able to facilitate sustainable lunar missions and would ultimately fire-up manned rockets to the Red Planet, Mars.
Chari would become the third Indo-American astronaut to be propelled into space after Kalpana Chawla, and Sunita Williams.
Chawla, a space scientist at NASA was on her way back to Earth in 2003 after spending 16 days in space on research. However, her space shuttle Columbia caught fire before landing on Earth and all aboard died in the fatal accident on 1 February 2003.
Williams, a navy officer, has been on three missions including the International Space Shuttle Mission in 2012.
While NASA is working on its “Artemis” programme, India is also busy preparing its manned space mission called “Gaganyaan”.
“Gangayaan” is a seven-day operation scheduled for January 2022.
The $1.31 billion mission was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day address to the nation on 15 August 2019.