NASA selects UNC graduate to head to space

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Saturday, February 3, 2024
NASA selects UNC graduate to head to space
A UNC-Chapel Hill graduate and NASA astronaut is headed to space on a NASA mission.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Zena Cardman, a NASA astronaut and UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, is heading to space this summer.

She will be one of four crew members embarking on NASA's SpaceX Crew-9 mission, taking them to the International Space Station. NASA said they will "conduct a wide-ranging set of operational and research activities for the benefit of all."

The mission is expected to launch no earlier than August, according to our newsgathering partners at the News & Observer.

Cardman said in a social media post Wednesday that she was "honored" to join "an amazing crew who epitomize competence, kindness, and trust."

SpaceX Crew-9 marks her first trip to space since completing her training under NASA's Artemis program in 2020.

Back in 2017, the Virginia native was selected as a NASA astronaut from a pool of more than 18,000 applicants. The Artemis program aims to land the first woman and next man on the moon.

Cardman became the first woman with a UNC degree to join the space program as an astronaut candidate, the N&O reported in 2017.

She also joins Christina Koch as the second astronaut educated at a public university in North Carolina to be named as a crew member on a NASA mission this past year. Cardman received both her bachelor's in biology and master's in marine biology from UNC. She then pursued her doctoral degree in geosciences at Penn State University.

Koch, who holds three degrees from NC State University, is expected to become the first woman to fly to the moon as a part of the Artemis II mission next year.

SEE ALSO | North Carolina astronaut Christina Koch selected by NASA to be first woman to fly around the moon

During University Research Week in 2019 at UNC, Cardman visited campus and credited her time at UNC with helping her begin her path to becoming an astronaut.

"I'm Zena Cardman," she said at UNC. "I am a NASA astronaut. I am also a Tar Heel."

Other SpaceX Crew-9 crew members include Pilot Nick Hague, Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson and Roscosmos Cosmonaut Mission Specialist Aleksandre Gorbunov.