Washington | After screening a record 18,000 applications, the NASA has finally picked 12 astronaut candidates – its largest astronaut class since 2000 – and Indian-American Raja Chari, a Lieutenant Colonel with the US Air Force, has bagged a most sought-after seat.
If all goes well, Chari may become the third person of Indian origin from the US after the late Kalpana Chawla and current NASA astronaut Sunita ‘Suni’ Williams to fly to space. Shawna Pandya, a Canada-born neurosurgeon, is also in the race to go on a space mission with NASA after being shortlisted under its 2018 Citizen Science Astronaut (CSA) programme earlier this year.
The selected 12 – seven men and five women — will be trained for missions into the Earth orbit and conduct key research for deep space missions, including Mars. The term astronaut candidate refers to individuals who have been selected for the NASA astronaut corps and are currently undergoing a training programme at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.