Iowan to join elite ranks of NASA astronauts

Lt Col Raja Chari, USAF  |NASA photo

(DES MOINES) – An Iowan is one of 12 people selected by NASA as a candidate for the 2017 class of American astronauts. Raja Chari hails from Cedar Falls and was chosen from 18,300 applicants. Gov Kim Reynolds and Lt Gov Adam Gregg on Thursday congratulated Chari on his outstanding achievement.

“Iowans are driven, focused and innovative individuals who work every day to achieve their dreams, no matter how high or lofty,” Reynolds said. “Raja Chari will be part of an elite group of astronauts pioneering space exploration and discovery for the United States. Raja’s story should serve as an inspiration to any young boy or girl interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The sky is not the limit when it comes to where a STEM career can take you.”

“I’m so proud of Raja Chari and the hard work and determination it took for him to get to this place,” Gregg said. “I am hopeful for similar success in future generations. Our children have a strong role model to look up to in Raja.”

Chari graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado with bachelor 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. Chari has been serving as commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

NASA last announced a class of astronauts five years ago when eight astronauts were chosen from more than 6,100 applicants.

Iowa is the home state of seven other astronauts, with Loren Shriver of Paton being the best known to Greene County residents. Others include Lauren Clark of Ames, who was killed on the space shuttle Columbia in 2002, James M. Kelly of Burlington, George Nelson of Charles City, David C. Hilmers of Clinton, Walter Cunningham of Creston and Peggy Whitson of Mount Ayr.


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