Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Bruton High grad becomes NASA astronaut (Free read)

he 2017 graduates of the Artemis program. Zena Cardman is in the bottom row, second from the right. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of NASA)
The 2017 graduates of the Artemis program. Zena Cardman is in the bottom row, second from the right. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of NASA)

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Eleven astronauts graduated Friday from NASA’s Artemis program at the Johnson’s Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The graduates were selected from more than 18,000 applicants. One of them, Zena Cardman, calls Williamsburg home. Find out more about the astronaut and selection process here.

“After completing more than two years of basic training, these candidates will become eligible for spaceflight, including assignments to the International Space Station, Artemis mission to the Moon, and ultimately, missions to Mars,” according to NASA’s news release.

Cardman has been researching microorganisms in subsurface environments such as faves and deep sea sediments and her field experience include expeditions to the Antarctic, British Columbia, Idaho and Hawaii, according to her online biography on NASA’s website.

In an interview with WYDaily, Cardman said applicants entering the astronaut training program, “give up” their personal research and focus on different subjects while becoming part of a larger research project.

“Scientific with army knives for sure,” she said of developing the new skill sets. “Sometimes, one of the biggest challenges is shifting your brain from mindset to mindset like flying a T-38 jet one hour to a Russian language class the next hour.”

The Bruton High School graduate said she didn’t know she wanted to become an astronaut until sometime in college.

“I was not one of the those people who grew up wanting to be an astronaut,” Cardman said. “I was a biology major, I loved science and research but it wasn’t until I started doing field work, collecting samples from very remote places and working with research teams in these remote places that I realized I love the teamwork aspect and the operating aspect as much as the science itself.”

She started following NASA’s previous round of applicants, the 2013 class, and once she qualified for the program, she applied.

“One of the greatest thrills of being part of NASA and a member of this class has been getting to know my classmates,” she said. “We are like family now.”

Cardman is excited to be graduating from astronaut training and being a part of the Artemis program.

But for now, she and her classmates are awaiting flight assignment.

In the meantime, they have technology jobs helping out around the office at Johnson Space Center. She is specifically working on the ground supporting the Expedition 61, the team currently at the International Space Station.

“It has been an incredible expedition so far,” Cardman said. “Full of spacewalks, visiting vehicles bringing cargo and science experiments and there is a new challenge every day working with the group.”

When asked what she would say to children in STEM-related fields, Cardman said it’s never to early to get involved in science, adding her biology teacher at BHS told her she could get some experience working at labs in Williamsburg.

“I want to tell students that is never too early to get involved in real science and real research to explore beyond the classroom,” Cardman said. “The classroom is important but you might be surprised by how early you can get involved by doing research in a laboratory and big team.”

You can follow Cardman on Twitter.

Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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