Raja Chari became one of 11 astronauts Friday to graduate from NASA’s Artemis program with the stated goal of getting humankind back on the moon by 2024.
The Indian American grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa and says everyday he asks himself what he has done to get help us get back to the moon.
Chari graduated from both the Air Force Academy and MIT with degrees in aeronautics and astronautics. He has also flown combat missions over Iraq.
His mother reminded him at graduation that he’s wanted to fly since kindergarten.
“Apparently there was an opportunity to pose for different pictures of what you wanted to be, and she relayed that since I was 5 or 6 years old talking about being an astronaut and flying in general was something I was interested in,” he said to Iowa Public Radio.
Chari credits his father Sreenivas with instilling in him the value of education.
“One thing from India that he brought with him was that school and education is a privilege, it’s not a right. And that was something that was very, very much enforced in our house and we never took for granted the fact we got to go to school,” he said to the Tribune.
NASA has high hopes for its first graduates from its Artemis Program.
“The new graduates may be assigned to missions destined for the International Space Station, the Moon, and ultimately, Mars. With a goal of sustainable lunar exploration later this decade, NASA will send the first woman and next man to the surface on the Moon by 2024. Additional lunar missions are planned once a year thereafter and human exploration of Mars is targeted for the mid-2030s,” the agency said.
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