Last Friday was another step toward a big dream. A dream that once-upon-a-time probably seemed unrealistic to everyone but Raja Chari. He was a boy who dreamed of being an astronaut and going to outer space. That young dreamer is now a graduate of basic training with NASA. That means, Chari can, indeed, fly in space.

Chari, 42, was one of only a dozen people chosen for astronaut training three years ago. 18,350 had applied, an all-time record. Last week, 11 graduated from the Artemis Moon program. Its goal is to send humans to the moon within four years. It would be the first time since 1972.

A U.S. Air Force colonel when he was chosen by NASA in June of 2017, Chari is now an active astronaut and the sky is the limit, literally. He told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier,

It’s absolutely amazing.  I never, ever thought I would be chosen. Even if I’m not the person to go to Mars, it’s not like we’re going to miss the opportunity. We as a nation, as a world, are planning to go there and stay, and create a presence as an outpost to go farther. It’s a unique time in history right now. It’s really an energy we haven’t seen since Apollo.

Chari is a 1995 graduate of Waterloo Columbus High School. He and his wife, Holly, have three children. Both are natives of Cedar Falls.

Robert Markowitz - NASA