Last night’s spectacular launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket went smoothly and Cedar Falls native Raja Chari and three other astronauts are now in orbit. The nighttime launch lit the sky at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.
Their Crew Dragon capsule will dock with the International Space Station tonight, after about a 22-hour journey.
Chari is commander of the six-month mission — which will have the crew living on the station through April.
He’s is only the 8th Iowan to reach space, the first to go aloft since Mount Ayr native Peggy Whiston’s last flight in 2017.
Chari, an Air Force colonel, is on his first mission in space, though he’s flown a multitude of aircraft, including F-15-E Strike Eagles during combat over Iraq.
He’s part of the corps of 18 astronauts assigned to Project Artemis, which aims to return to the Moon in 2024.
Married and the father of three, Chari is NASA’s first rookie commander since Gerald Carr, who headed the Skylab 4 mission in 1973.