Virginia Native Zena Cardman to Graduate as NASA Astronaut Candidate with Eye on Artemis Missions

Virginia native Zena Cardman will join the rest of NASA’s first class of astronaut candidates to graduate under the Artemis program, for a graduation ceremony and media opportunity Friday, Jan. 10, at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

After completing more than two years of basic training, she will become eligible for spaceflight assignments to the International Space Station (ISS), Artemis missions to the Moon, and future missions to Mars.

2017 NASA Astronaut Candidate Zena Cardman

The ceremony will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. The new graduates also will be available for in-person and remote media interviews following the ceremony.

The class includes 11 NASA candidates, as well as two Canadian Space Agency (CSA) candidates, selected in 2017. The NASA candidates, including Cardman, were chosen from a record-setting pool of more than 18,000 applicants. The CSA candidates have been training alongside their NASA classmates. 

Cardman calls Williamsburg, Virginia, home. She completed a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in marine sciences at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Cardman was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow working at The Pennsylvania State University. Her research focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments. Her field experience includes multiple Antarctic expeditions, work aboard research vessels as both a scientist and crew member, and NASA analog missions in British Columbia, Idaho and Hawaii.

All astronaut candidates have completed training in spacewalking, robotics, ISS systems, T-38 jet proficiency, and Russian language. At the ceremony, each candidate will receive an astronaut pin, marking their graduation from basic training and their eligibility to be selected to fly in space.

As astronauts, they’ll help develop spacecraft, support the teams currently in space and ultimately, have the opportunity to join the ranks of only about 500 people who have had the honor of going into space. NASA continues its work aboard the space station, which is preparing to mark the 20th consecutive year of humans living onboard in November 2020. The agency also is on the verge of launching Americans from American soil aboard commercial spacecraft and is preparing to send humans to the Moon as part of the Artemis program.