Eastern Iowa native graduates from NASA's astronaut training program, eligible for space flight

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KCRG) - A Cedar Falls-native is now a graduate of NASA's astronaut training program and eligible for space flight.

Raja Chari (NASA)

Raja Chari graduated from basic training at NASA on Friday and is one of 11 trainees under the agency's Artemis Moon program which aims to send crews to the moon by 2024 for the first time since 1972.

NASA is planning for a trip to Mars sometime in the 2030s.

Chari graduated from Columbus High School in Waterloo in 1995 and grew up in Cedar Falls.

When Chari started in 2017, he talked to NASA about how he wished he took the time to appreciate his journey.

"Now looking back I would have told myself to just pause and appreciate what's actually happening around you and the magic of the moment that you're in," he said. "I'd probably tell myself to just relax a little bit and don't be so stressed out. I don't remember a lot of it. But, from what my mom relays to me, I was a very uptight child."

Chari and his wife Holly are both from Cedar Falls and have three children.

At the time of his selection to the program, Chari was a colonel in the U.S. Air Force and had logged more than 2,000 hours of flight time.