NICEVILLE, Fla. (WKRG) — Colonel Raja Chari and Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hines from NASA stopped by Okaloosa Co. this month to teach students in all grades about space.

The pair shared their experiences as astronauts and their journey to become one.

Both men have been sent to the International Space Station. The astronauts shared a video with the students on the primary day-to-day duties and activities they performed on the ISS before a question and answer session. 

ROTC Cadets from Crestview, Niceville, Choctawhatchee, and Fort Walton Beach High Schools and students from the Okaloosa STEMM Academy convened at Niceville High School on Thursday, Apr. 13, and the Astronaut Club members from Antioch Elementary and Bluewater Elementary met at Bluewater on Friday, Apr. 14.

“We are so thankful for this experience,” said Amy Klugh, Bluewater Elementary School Principal. “Since the students have all been to Space camp, they were engaged and asked such thoughtful questions.” Klugh thanked the astronauts for their visit and for giving the students a core memory experience. “They will never forget this!”

Col. Raja Chari was part of Expedition 66 (Oct. 2021 – Mar. 2022) where crew members conducted experiments that could help identify new materials with innate antimicrobial properties that could be used in designing future spacecraft. New hydrogen sensors were tested on the station’s oxygen generation system to determine their stability over time. Astronauts also manufactured optical fibers in microgravity and contributed to research aimed at improving the infectious disease risk assessment for astronauts.

Lt. Col. Bob Hines was part of Expedition 67 (Mar. 2022 – Sept. 2022). He and his crew members conducted experiments that studied the aging of immune cells and the potential to reverse those effects during post-flight recovery. A commercial off-the-shelf technology that could help diagnose medical conditions on deep space exploration missions was also tested and sutured wounds heal in microgravity. A new external facility was installed on the orbiting laboratory to map Earth’s dust-producing regions and they conducted an experiment to look at how a new concrete alternative behaves in microgravity could help develop in-situ construction materials on the Moon or Mars.

“We appreciate  Eglin Air Force Base for coordinating these visits and NASA Astronauts Colonel Raja Chari and Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hines for sharing their knowledge and love of STEM with our students!”

Okaloosa County School District Communications Division

Read more about the astronauts online. Bob Hines, Raja Chari.