American space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Wednesday named 18 astronauts who will train for its ambitious manned mission to Moon and beyond. Indian-American US Air Force colonel, Raja Jon Vurputoor Chari is also one of them. Out of 18 astronauts selected by NASA for its Artemis moon-landing programme, half of them are women.

“Pilot with 2,000 hours of flight time. Meet @Astro_Raja, an initial member of our @NASAArtemis team who will help pave the way for the next human missions on and around the Moon,” NASA Aeronautics tweeted introducing Raja Chari.

Raja Chari, 43, is the only Indian-American in the list. He is a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and US Naval Test Pilot School. Earlier in 2017, NASA selected him for Astronaut Candidate Class. After completing his initial astronaut candidate training, Raja Chari is now eligible for a mission assignment.

“My fellow Americans, I give you the heroes of the future who will carry us back to the Moon and beyond: the Artemis Generation,” Vice President Mike Pence said at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, on Wednesday.

“It really is amazing to think that the next man and the first woman on the Moon are among the names that we just read… We started today reflecting on a great hero of the past. The Artemis Generation are the heroes of American space exploration in the future,” he further said.

The oldest astronaut on the Artemis Team is 55, while the youngest is 32. Through the modern lunar exploration programme, first woman and then the man will land on the Moon in 2024. It will also aim at establishing a sustainable human lunar presence by the decade end.