NASA Selects Air Force Pilot as Astronaut Candidate
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
NASA has selected the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron here to join the 2017 astronaut candidate class.
Air Force Lt. Col. Raja Chari, who has been selected for promotion to colonel, relinquishes command of the squadron tomorrow. He has overseen developmental testing of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter for the past couple of years while simultaneously serving as director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force.
Chari has flown more than 2,000 flight hours in the F-35 Lightning II, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F-18 Hornet, including F-15E combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom and deployments in support of the Korean Peninsula.
The Iowa native graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1999 with bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He earned a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.
One of 12 Chosen
Chari is one of 12 new astronauts introduced yesterday who will train for missions into Earth’s orbit and into deep space. The seven men and five women comprise the 22nd class of American spaceflight trainees since 1959. The group is the largest selected in almost two decades, NASA officials said.
The 12 new candidates include six military officers, three scientists, two medical doctors, a lead engineer at SpaceX and a NASA research pilot.
Chari will report in August to begin two years of training as an astronaut candidate. Upon completion, he will be assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office while he awaits a flight assignment.