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Meet Raja Chari, the Indian-American, Nasa chose for space mission

Candidates will be trained for missions into Earth orbit & conduct key research for space missions

IANS  |  Washington 

Space Center in Florida  Ingus Kruklitis /
Chari is a commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California

After screening a record 18,000 applications, the agency has finally shortlisted 12 candidates - its largest class since 2000, and Raja Chari, a Lieutenant Colonel with the US Air Force, has bagged a most sought-after seat. The selected 12; eight men and four women, will be trained for missions into the and conduct key research for deep missions. Chari, who will report for duty in August this year, graduated from the Academy in 1999 with bachelor's degrees in astronautical and science. Hailing from the state of Iowa, he earned a Master's degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School as well as from Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Chari, a father of three, is a commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He has accumulated more than 2,000 hours of flight time in 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 has been awarded the Defence Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, an Iraq Campaign Medal, a Korean Defense Service Medal and the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal, among other citations. After a two-year training like other candidates, Chari will be assigned technical duties in the Office till he gets a flight assignment. On Wednesday, US Vice President Mike Pence joined leaders as they introduced the members of the 2017 class during an event at the agency's Johnson Center in Houston. "These are 12 men and women whose personal excellence and whose personal courage will carry our nation to even greater heights of discovery and who I know will inspire our children and our grandchildren every bit as much as your forebears have done so in this storied American programme," said Pence. "And to this newest class of astronauts, it's my honour to bring the sincere congratulations of the 45th President of the US, Your President is proud of you, and so am I," the Vice President added. The could be assigned to any of a variety of missions, including performing research on the International Station (ISS), launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies and departing for deep missions on NASA's new Orion spacecraft and Launch System (SLS) rocket. "We look forward to the energy and talent of these astronauts fueling our exciting future of discovery," said acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot in a statement. "Between expanding the crew on board the station to conduct more research than ever before, and making preparations to send humans farther into than we've ever been, we are going to keep them busy," he said. With the addition of these 12 members, now has selected 350 astronauts since the original Mercury 7 in 1959. "These women and men deserve our enthusiastic congratulations," said Ellen Ochoa, and Johnson Center Director. The 12 new candidates include six military officers, three scientists, two medical doctors, a lead engineer at and a research pilot.

First Published: Thu, June 08 2017. 13:21 IST