Raja Chari, an Indian-American US Air Force colonel, is among 18 astronauts, half of them women, who have been selected by NASA for its ambitious manned mission to the Moon and beyond.

The modern lunar exploration programme will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human lunar presence by the end of the decade, the American space agency said.

NASA is planning to send the first woman and the next man to walk on the moon in 2024 under its Artemis programme. Half of the astronauts chosen to go to the moon are women. Chari, a resident of Cedar Falls, Iowa, is the only Indian-American among the selected candidates.