An Indian-American astronaut is among the 12 new experts selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for missions into earth’s orbit and space. Nasa announced these names at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Wednesday, reported the Boston Globe.

Lieutenant Colonel Raja “Grinder” Chari, 39, is a commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Chari’s father is from India, reported PTI. He, however, hails from Waterloo. Chari got a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after he graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School, said Nasa.

These 12 new astronauts – seven men and five women – make up the largest group Nasa has selected in almost two decades, according to PTI. These astronauts were handpicked among a record 18,300 applicants. This 22nd class of American spaceflight trainees, which includes doctors, scientists, engineers, pilots and military officers, will be trained for two years now.

Once their training is complete, these astronauts could be assigned to research missions on the International Space Station and flying into the space on Nasa’s new Orion spacecraft or its Space Launch System rocket. “The courage of these men and women, and all the astronauts who have gone before, inspires me to this very day,” said US Vice President Mike Pence who was also present when the names were announced.

Pence further said that President Donald Trump was “firmly committed” to Nasa’s missions. He also promised Nasa all help to “make history”. Pence said, “America will lead the way in space once again.” His comment comes even as the president’s budget request slashing funds and cancelling some of the agency’s programmes.