Washington: NASA has selected an initial team of 18 astronauts, including Indian-American astronaut Raja Chari, to form the Artemis Team and help pave the way for the next lunar missions, including sending the first woman and next man to walk on the lunar surface in 2024.
Vice President of the US Mike Pence introduced the members of the Artemis Team on Wednesday during the eighth National Space Council meeting at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
“I give you the heroes who will carry us to the Moon and beyond — the Artemis Generation,” said Vice President Mike Pence.
“It is amazing to think that the next man and first woman on the Moon are among the names that we just read. The Artemis Team astronauts are the future of American space exploration — and that future is bright.”
The astronauts on the Artemis Team come from a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise, and experience.
The agency’s modern lunar exploration programme will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human lunar presence by the end of the decade.
NASA said it will announce flight assignments for astronauts later, pulling from the Artemis Team.
The US space agency said that additional Artemis Team members, including international partner astronauts, will join this group, as needed.
Chari joined the astronaut corps in 2017. 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.
The US Naval Test Pilot School graduate worked on F-15E upgrades and then the F-35 development programme, before coming to NASA.
His father Sreenivas V. Chari immigrated from Hyderabad.
“We are incredibly grateful for the president and vice president’s support of the Artemis programme, as well as the bipartisan support for all of NASA’s science, aeronautics research, technology development, and human exploration goals,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“As a result, we’re excited to share this next step in exploration — naming the Artemis Team of astronauts who will lead the way, which includes the first woman and next man to walk on the lunar surface.”
The astronauts of the Artemis Team will help NASA prepare for the coming Artemis missions, which begin next year working with the agency’s commercial partners as they develop human landing systems; assisting in the development of training; defining hardware requirements; and consulting on technical development.
“There is so much exciting work ahead of us as we return to the moon, and it will take the entire astronaut corps to make that happen,” Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester said.
“Walking on the lunar surface would be a dream come true for any one of us, and any part we can play in making that happen is an honour.”
The Artemis Team members also include Joseph Acaba, Kayla Barron, Matthew Dominick, Victor Glover, Warren Hoburg, Jonny Kim, Christina Hammock Koch, Kjell Lindgren, Nicole A. Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir, Jasmin Moghbeli, Kate Rubins, Frank Rubio, Scott Tingle, Jessica Watkins and Stephanie Wilson.