Central College News

UPDATE: Central Hosts Event Featuring NASA Commander Raja Chari

Featured: UPDATE: Central Hosts Event Featuring NASA Commander Raja Chari

February 22, 2022

The Central College community will present “Space Station Central” on Thursday, Feb. 24, in Harry and Bernice Vermeer Banquet Hall of Graham Conference Center on Central’s campus. The event is free to attend and open to the public.

The in-person programming will begin at 2 p.m. Starting at 2:45 p.m., those in attendance and tuning in online via the Central Dutch Network will have the unique opportunity to hear from Raja Chari — husband of Holly Schaffter Chari, a 1999 graduate of Central — who is currently aboard the International Space Station. Chari is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronaut and the current commander of the NASA SpaceX Crew-3 mission which launched on Nov. 10, 2021.

Chari is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy where he received bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He earned a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

Mary Benedict, assistant director of annual giving and alumni engagement, is the architect of the event. When she was contacted initially, she said, “I thought it was a phishing attempt, but I was so glad to learn it was real!

“This is an amazing opportunity for Central College,” Benedict says. “We’re so grateful to Holly for making this connection with her alma mater and to Raja for choosing Central for his live event! We look forward to welcoming the local and campus communities for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The program also will feature a short presentation from Pavithra (Pavi) Premaratne, assistant professor of physics and engineering at Central. Premaratne is serving as a co-principal investigator for his alma mater, Iowa State University, on a research project developing a 3D printing process for a zero-gravity environment. This work has been submitted to and is being tested by NASA.

The event is available to view online as well via the Central Dutch Network.