Just a few months ago, we wrote about Cedar Falls native Raja Chari spending his Thanksgiving in space. The former U.S. Air Force colonel remains aboard the International Space Station as we speak. This is his first trip to space.

On Wednesday, he spent time doing a question-and-answer session with cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy (very remotely). During the Q&A, Chari was asked about how his current mission relates to future plans to visit Mars.

The 1999 Air Force Academy graduate had this to say, according to Radio Iowa:

We’re increasing our sample size of people who’ve been here longer than six months, up in space. The reason we’re doing that is we want to see — is the progression of human change linear, with months to years as we look at Mars, or is there a cliff? Does something happen at a year? Does something happen at 15 months? We’re trying to solve that problem. As we look at a Mars mission, we need to understand that.

A big part of the reason NASA is looking into the question stems from the fact that, as of now, it would take roughly six months to arrive on Mars with the technology at hand. During the selection process for the mission, Chari "appealed to the academy cadets who are studying rocketry and astrophysics to seek out new ways to propel our spacecraft," according to the site. He added the following:

If we can get there faster, that will solve the problem. Most of our problems, whether it’s radiation, human psychology, water, consumables, getting there and back and living there, it’s all because it takes so long to get there. If we could have a quantum leap in propulsion technology, whether it’s electric, whether it’s nuclear propulsion — getting to accept that politically and socially — I think that would solve a lot of our problems.

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