Meet NASA Astronaut Zena Cardman: Antarctic Adventurer And Trained Poet

Zena Cardman, a future astronaut, seen here in Antarctica.

Cardman’s time in extreme environments conducting cutting-edge science certainly seems like a good fit for a future astronaut, but her earlier time at university featured a somewhat more eclectic mix of subjects, including biology, marine science, and poetry.

She signed up for poetry at first simply because all science majors had to take an English class, but thanks to a wonderful lecturer – a long-term substitute to boot – and a fantastic course, she ended up writing a thesis on the subject. “It’d be my last chance to do that sort of thing,” she adds.

We mention the scene in the movie Contact, where protagonist Dr. Ellie Arroway, upon seeing an alien civilization for the first time, remarked: “They should have sent a poet.” How does Cardman feel about finally being an astronaut that ticks this box?

“I hope that experience will help me convey the things that I see when I eventually go to space,” she tells us, before adding: “God, I really… I have no idea what to expect.

“From what I understand, this job continues to feel surreal and fake until that moment that you lift off. But I think getting to see the curve of the Earth against that black background – it must be completely life-altering. I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like, but I hope I’ll be able to convey that back home.”

So what happens now, we ask. With a wonderful sense of nonchalance, Cardman tells us that “the first two years is the training period. It’ll be like being back in school again; everything from learning to fly P-38 supersonic jets to learning spacewalking techniques.”

She’ll also be mandated to learn the Russian language, “which I’m very excited about – I’ve never learned a language that has a different alphabet before.” Robotics and the workings of the International Space Station (ISS) will also feature heavily.

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