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Astronaut from Iowa shares what his time in space was like

"There's parts about being able to look out the window that is obviously amazing, and just the ability to float places," said Raja Chari.

IOWA, USA — An Iowa astronaut's feet are firmly planted on the ground once again after spending six months in space. 

Raja Chari, an astronaut who grew up in Cedar Falls and graduated from Columbus High School in Waterloo, served as commander of the NASA SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station.

He spent 177 days in orbit and 175 of them aboard the International Space Station, orbiting earth 2,832 times. He called the experience "exciting."

"There's parts about being able to look out the window that is obviously amazing, and just the ability to float places," Chari said. "I mean one of the frustrations of coming back is it's so hard to go get something. I have to stand up, I have to walk there."

Other crew members alongside Chari included: Kayla Barron, Tom Marshburn, and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer.

While in space they, completed about 300 experiments. Some of them included a study on concrete hardening in microgravity and looking into cotton varieties that could help develop drought-resistant plants and a space archaeology study about the design of future space habitats.

Credit: AP
Astronauts, from left, Tom Marshburn, Matthias Maurer, of Germany, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron wave as they leave the Operations and Checkout building for a trip to Launch Pad 39-A Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The four astronauts are scheduled to fly on SpaceX's Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

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One research also included looking into cotton.

"We were doing some things like cotton cells, so we were able to come up with some new genetic strains up there that will hopefully be more drought resistant," Chari said. "For me being from Iowa and having an agriculture upbringing, whether it was detasseling in the summertime or seeing cornfields everywhere we drove, agriculture is very near and dear to my heart."

Chari said he has wanted to go to space since he was younger, and being able to is an accomplishment.

He also noted as an Asian American who grew up in a smaller town like Cedar Falls, if other little kids from an area like that who look like him see what he did, it could motivate them to do the same or be greater.  

"I think it definitely helps to look at an industry and see people that are like you in that industry," he told Local 5. "Hopefully if I can help inspire or at least give encouragement to kids."

Chari said he is still getting used to walking again and being back on Earth.

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