The US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has unveiled 12 new candidates who it deems are good enough to become its next astronauts. Among them is Raja Chari, an Indian-American who has risen through the ranks of the US Air Force (USAF) before becoming one of the two USAF personnel to be chosen as astronaut candidates this year.
The space-faring dozen may have diverse opportunities ahead of them after they finish their training. Announcing the names of the 12, NASA said in a statement: "After completing two years of training, the new astronaut candidates could be assigned to missions performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and flying on deep-space missions on NASA's new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket."
This is hardly the first time an Indian-American has been chosen to be a NASA astronaut. There have been Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, who have made both India and the US proud. Chari may be expected to continue in the tradition.
Here are 10 things to know about Raja Chari:
1. Chari was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1978, and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
2. He is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force.
3. Chari graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1999 with a Bachelor's degrees in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science.
4. He went on to earn a Master's degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and also graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School.
5. NASA has said about Chari: "At the time of his selection in June 2017 [as astronaut candidate], Chari was a Colonel select in the US Air Force, serving as the Commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the Director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force."
6. Chari has more than 2,000 hours of flight time in F-35s, F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s, including F-15E combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom and deployments in support of the Korean peninsula.
7. The USAF pilot has several feathers in his cap. He has been awarded the Defence Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, an Iraq Campaign Medal, a Korean Defence Service Medal and the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal.
8. Chari has also been named "distinguished graduate" from the US Air Force Academy, Undergraduate Pilot Training, and the F-15E Formal Training Unit.
9. Chari, who is 39 years old, has the nickname "Grinder."
10. Chari is married to Holly Schaffter Chari and has three children with her.