From Radio Iowa- The next person to walk on the Moon could be an Iowan. Only a dozen people have done so, the last was nearly 50 years ago. Cedar Falls native Raja Chari is among the 18 astronauts named to the new Artemis team which is setting its sights on making the 239,000 mile journey.
(As above) “The Artemis goal is to have people back on the Moon to stay by 2024,” Chari says. “We’ll have to build to that so there will be a mission prior to that to go around the Moon and test out the systems and then we’ll also continue to keep our presence on the space station, so there’s lots of different possibilities for me in the coming years.”
The 41-year-old Air Force colonel acknowledges he -could- be the first man since the late Gene Cernan of Apollo 17 to step on foot on the Moon, but Chari says he thinks it will be on of his NASA colleagues.
(As above) “It is, I guess, theoretically possible but I would put my money on someone else,” Chari says, laughing. “There’s much better qualified people in the office than me. That’s a great problem to have, to be working with people that, every single one of them, I’d say you should take them instead of me. That’s what I love about working here at Johnson and in our office, just the caliber of people.”
Chari is named to be part of a NASA-SpaceX crew that will fly to the International Space Station next fall for a six-month mission in orbit. He joined the astronaut corps in 2017, being among a dozen candidates picked out of 18,000 applicants. Chari has degrees in aeronautics and astronautics from the Air Force Academy and MIT. He served as a test pilot for the Air Force, helping develop America’s newest fighter jet, the F-35, and he flew combat missions over Iraq. Perhaps as soon as next year, Chari will join the short list of seven other Iowa natives who have seen the Earth from orbit.