More than 18,350 applied to be chosen as members of the 2017 class of U.S. Astronauts, and an eastern Iowan made the elite class.

39-year-old Raja Chari of Cedar Falls (below right corner above) was one of the dozen announced from an applicant pool more than twice the previous record of 8,000.

Chari, a 1995 graduate of Waterloo Columbus High, is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force who holds a Bachelor's Degree in Aeronautical Engineering and Engineering Science from the U.S. Air Force Academy and his Master's in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). He's a graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and currently is the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and Director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Airforce Base. You can see his introduction below, in the video courtesy of the Des Moines Register. It begins at the 1:27 mark:

Chari will become at least the tenth astronaut with ties to the state of Iowa following Peggy Whitson, Dale Gardner, Jim Kelly, George Nelson, Clayton Anderson, David Hilmers, Walter Cunningham, Loren Shriver, and Laurel Clark, who died on the Space Shuttle Columbia.

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