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Cedar Falls Native Raja Chari Takes Giant Leap Toward Childhood Dream

Mark Garcia
Cedar Falls native Raja Chari has graduated from astronaut candidate school. He is eligible for missions aboard the International Space Station and ultimately to Mars.

The first class of astronauts to graduate under NASA's Artemis program was honored at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston Friday. One of the graduates is Cedar Falls native Raja Chari.

Chari spent two years in training after attending the Air Force Academy and MIT. He says the Artemis program aims to send astronauts back to the moon and to Mars.

Credit Peggy Chari
Eleven-year-old Raja Chari, in fifth grade. This is a poster he made for one of his classes.

“There are two new vehicles being built by Space X and Boeing that are going to be taking American astronauts launching for America again back to the space station...” he says. “...also working on the Orion capsule, which is part of the Artemis program, and that’s, as you alluded to, the plan to get back to the moon and beyond.”

Chari said he knew he wanted to be an astronaut someday as early as age 11. His mom was at the graduation ceremony today and told him he has always pictured himself achieving that goal.

“Apparently there was an opportunity to pose for different pictures of what you wanted to be, and she relayed that since I was 5 or 6 years old talking about being an astronaut and flying in general was something I was interested in,” he said.

Pat Blank is the host of All Things Considered