Listen to a USAF Astronaut’s Emergency Call With NASA After Russian ASAT Test

Air Force Col. Raja Chari is the astronaut onboard the International Space Station heard receiving emergency instructions from the Johnson Space Center after Russia’s Nov. 15 anti-satellite weapon test, NASA confirmed to Air Force Magazine.

Commander of the Crew-3 mission—the third under SpaceX’s contract to transport astronauts in its Crew Dragon capsules—Chari is a test pilot and member of NASA’s “Artemis Team” of astronauts picked to prepare for moon missions.

“Heads-up, 15 minutes to the next debris field pass,” a voice from the space center says in the audio clip, which had been played more than 42,000 times as of Nov. 18. 

“Is the conjunction still a yellow risk, or has it changed?” Chari replies.

“It’s an equivalent yellow for the next debris pass,” says the official in Houston. “And then also, we are estimating that the probability of a hit to Dragon would be lower than the rest of the ISS.”

Chari asks for confirmation that someone from SpaceX is “on console” in case of a hit and proposes the idea of staying suited up in spacesuits and flying back home if so, emphasizing, “This is all if Dragon takes a hit.”

“Alteration to that proposal,” says Houston. “If Dragon takes a hit, we will get you back on station.” 

The ISS made it through two close passes by the debris without a reported hit.  

The four-member crew—three U.S. astronauts and a German—arrived at the ISS on Nov. 11 only to have to get ready to bug out a handful of days later. Navy submarine warfare officer Lt. Cmdr. Kayla Barron is another Artemis astronaut along on the Crew-3 mission.

The Artemis Team of which Chari and Barron are members comprises 18 astronauts, four of whom would theoretically be tapped for a flyby of the moon on NASA’s Artemis-2 mission; and up to four who would go on NASA’s first moon landing mission since the Apollo era. NASA had projected the goal of landing people on the moon by 2024, but a report this month by its Office of Inspector General clarified that the human landing will likely take place several years later than that because of program delays.

When Chari was selected for NASA’s 2017 astronaut class, he served as commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force, according to his NASA bio. He had more than 2,500 hours in the F-35, F-15, F-16, and F-18 and flew the F-15E in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He graduated from the Air Force Academy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Naval Test Pilot School.