A Tar Heel astronaut

A member of the Artemis program, Carolina alumna and NASA astronaut candidate Zena Cardman is taking her research journey to space.

Where do you go next when your research has already taken you from the Arctic to Antarctica?

You head off the planet.

Carolina alumna and NASA astronaut candidate Zena Cardman ’10, ’14 (M.S.) is hoping to do just that as a member of the Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024.

“Right now, my job is training full-time,” Cardman said. “Everybody has to be able to do everything. So, even though I’m a microbiologist, I’m also learning all of these operational and engineering systems. Similarly, my test pilot classmates have to learn how to use a pipette and operate as a scientist.”

Last week, Cardman returned to Chapel Hill — where she first saw the option of becoming an astronaut as a reality — to reflect on her time as a Carolina student and to share her NASA experiences.

“It was during college that I found people who I wanted to model my life and my career after, people who were students just a few years older than I was,” she said. “Realizing that there were people who were like me who did that career path that I wanted to pursue made me think that it could work.”

Press the play button above to learn more about Zena and her path to the NASA