The Greatest Leap, part 4: Catching Apollo fever as a new NASA employee


Video shot by Joshua Ballinger, edited and produced by Jing Niu and David Minick. Click here for transcript.

As inevitably happens in August, a sweltering heat with the tactility of dog’s breath had come over Houston when Raja Chari reported to the Johnson Space Center. Just shy of his 40th birthday, the decorated combat veteran and test pilot had been born too late to see humans walking on the Moon. No matter, he was in awe of the new office.

The son of an immigrant from India, Chari grew up in the heartland of America and grasped onto the American dream. He worked hard in school, and then in the Air Force, to become an astronaut. So when Chari finally got to Johnson Space Center in 2017 as a member of its newest astronaut class, his sense of achievement mingled with reverence. He found himself in the cradle of human spaceflight, where the Mercury 7 and Apollo astronauts had trained. Chari felt a wide-eyed wonderment for the people around him, too. The engineers. The flight controllers. His fellow astronauts.

“Honestly, it’s all about the people,” he told Ars just a few weeks after moving to Houston. “We’re all caught up in this sense of mission. The people here, my colleagues, are what really stand out. I can’t wait to go to work with them every day.”

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