Indian-American US Air Force Colonel Raja Chari has been selected as the Commander of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by NASA and the European Space Agency.
43-year-old Chari will serve as the commander while NASA's Tom Marshburn will be pilot and ESA's Matthias Maurer will serve as a mission specialist for the SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the ISS, which is expected to launch next year.
A fourth crew member will be added at a later date, following a review by NASA and its international partners, NASA said in a statement on Monday.
"Excited and honored to be training with @astro_matthias and @AstroMarshburn in prep for a trip to the @Space_Station," Chari said in a tweet on Monday.
"Proud to be working and training with Matthias Maurer and Thomas Henry Marshburn in preparation for a mission to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon," he posted on his Facebook page.
This will be the first spaceflight for Chari, who became a NASA astronaut in 2017. He was born in Milwaukee, but considers Cedar Falls, Iowa, his hometown, NASA said.
He is a colonel in the US Air Force and joins the mission with extensive experience as a test pilot. He has accumulated more than 2,500 hours of flight time in his career. Chari was selected earlier this month as a member of the Artemis Team and is now eligible for assignment to a future lunar mission, it said in a statement.
Chari's father Srinivas Chari came to the US at a young age from Hyderabad for an engineering degree.
When Chari, Marshburn, and Maurer arrive at the orbiting laboratory, they will become expedition crew members for the duration of their six-month stay. The crew will have a slight overlap with the Crew-2 astronauts, who are expected to launch in the spring of 2021.
This will be the third crew rotation mission of SpaceX's human space transportation system and its fourth flight with astronauts, including the Demo-2 test flight, to the space station through NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
The goal of the programme is to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective crew access to the space station and low-Earth orbit in partnership with American aerospace industry.
NASA's contract with SpaceX is for six total crew missions to the orbiting laboratory. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time, and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbital outpost, the US space agency said.