Washington: Raja Jon Vurputoor Chari, an Indian-American US Air Force colonel, is among 18 astronauts -- half of whom are women -- who have been selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for its ambitious manned mission to the moon and beyond.
The modern lunar exploration programme will first land woman and next man on the moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human lunar presence by the end of the decade, said the American space agency. NASA on Wednesday named the 18 astronauts who will train for its Artemis moon-landing programme.
Raja Chari, 43, is a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and US Naval Test Pilot School, and is the only Indian-American in the list.
He was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. He reported for duty in August 2017 and has completed the initial astronaut candidate training is now eligible for a mission assignment. "My fellow Americans, I give you the heroes of the future who will carry us back to the Moon and beyond: the Artemis Generation," said Mike Pence, vice president at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, on Wednesday.
Pence said in the 8th National Space Council meeting, "It really is amazing to think that the next man and the first woman on the Moon are among the names that we just read… we started today reflecting on a great hero of the past. The Artemis Generation are the heroes of American space exploration in the future."
The astronauts on the Artemis Team come from a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise and experience. Most of the astronauts in the group are in their 30s or 40s. The oldest is 55 and the youngest is 32.
NASA will announce the flight assignments for astronauts later, pulling from the Artemis Team. Additional Artemis Team members, including international partner astronauts, will join this group, as needed.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine thanked the President and the Vice President for their constant support towards The Artemis Generation team as well as the bipartisan support for all of NASA's science, aeronautics research, technology development and human exploration goals.
The selected astronauts will help NASA prepare for the coming Artemis missions, which begin next year working with the agency's commercial partners as they develop human landing systems, assisting in the development of training, defining hardware requirements, and consulting on technical development.
They will also engage the public and the industry on NASA's exploration plans.