First woman, Indian-American Raja Chari among NASA's 18 astronauts for Artemis Moon mission

Indian-American astronaut Raja Chari is part of NASA's 18 member team who will train for its Artemis moon-landing mission.

First woman, Indian-American Raja Chari among NASA's 18 astronauts for Artemis Moon mission

NASA has named the 18 astronauts, including Indian-American astronaut Raja Chari, who will train for its Artemis moon-landing programme. Half of the team comprises women and the first woman and the next man on the moon will come from this elite group.

Chari joined the astronaut corps in 2017, as per news agency IANS. A colonel in the US Air Force, he was raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He received a bachelor`s degree in astronautical engineering and a master`s degree in aeronautics and astronautics.

Vice President Mike Pence introduced the astronauts on Wednesday at the close of his final meeting as chairman of the National Space Council. The announcement was made at Florida's Kennedy Space Centre, beneath one of only three remaining Saturn V moon rockets from the 1960s and 1970s Apollo programme.

"My fellow Americans, I give you the heroes of the future who will carry us back to the moon and beyond, the Artemis generation," Pence told the small crowd, seated several feet apart from one another.

Five of the astronauts---the only ones in attendance--walked onto the stage, waving and wearing masks.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stressed there would be more astronauts joining the group. NASA has 47 active astronauts. The space agency is aiming for a moon landing by 2024, although the chances of that happening are growing increasingly dim. The upcoming change in administration also adds uncertainty.

Half of the NASA astronauts have spaceflight experience. Two are at the International Space Station right now: Kate Rubins and Victor Glover.

The two astronauts who performed the world's first all-female spacewalk in 2019 made the cut: Christina Koch and Jessica Meir. It's a fairly young group, with most in their 30s or 40s. The oldest is 55, the youngest 32. Only two--Joe Acaba and Stephanie Wilson flew on NASA's old space shuttles.

The other experienced members on the list include Kjell Lindgren, Anne McClain and Scott Tingle, both former space station residents.

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Among those yet to rocket into space: Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, Matthew Dominick, Woody Hoburg, Jonny Kim, Nicole Mann, Jasmin Moghbeli, Frank Rubio and Jessica Watkins.

with inputs from agencies

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