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Penn State Doctoral Student Named To NASA’s 2017 Astronaut Class

Penn State doctoral student Zena Cardman was named to NASA’s 2017 astronaut class Wednesday during a ceremony at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Of 18,000 applicants, 12 men and women were accepted into the program.

“I am beyond humbled and proud to be a part of our space program, and in the company of this new class of astronauts,” Cardman said in a press release. “It’s such a diverse group, and I’m thrilled to join my experience in microbiology and field research with the test pilots, medical doctors, engineers and everyone else. I am so grateful for the mentors and colleagues who helped me along the way.”

Cardman is studying to earn her doctorate in geosciences from Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Her research centers on microbe-rock interactions and what they can tell us about life on early Earth.

In addition to her field of study, Cardman was likely selected because of her diverse background. She’s also spent time with the Sea Education Association and in isolation with the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research station in Antarctica. She’ll report to Johnson Space Center in August to begin her training.

Cardman could be the fifth Penn Stater to fly in space, following in the footsteps of alumni Paul Weitz, Robert Cenker, and Guion S. Bluford Jr. (the first African-American astronaut) and alumnus and kinesiology professor James Pawelczyk.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa is a senior public relations major and the managing editor of Onward State. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Send questions and comments via e-mail ([email protected]) and follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.


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