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Penn State doctoral student among 12 selected for NASA astronaut program

Penn State graduate student Zena Cardman is a newly minted NASA pick. She is among 12 new astronauts joining the existing corps of 44 NASA astronauts.
Penn State graduate student Zena Cardman is a newly minted NASA pick. She is among 12 new astronauts joining the existing corps of 44 NASA astronauts. Photo provided

There are 12 new astronaut candidates in the United States, and one of them is a Nittany Lion.

On Wednesday, NASA announced it had picked a dozen people to explore strange new worlds — or at least to go into orbit around the planet — from a pool of applicants that has more than doubled since it’s previous record.

Zena Cardman is a newly minted pick for NASA’s 2017 class of astronauts. She is also a Penn State doctoral student in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, studying the reactions between rocks and microbes.

Cardman was one of more than 18,300 people who let NASA know they want to go to space. The last record was 8,000 in 1978, just three years before the launch of the first space shuttle mission in 1981.

NASA has selected its largest astronaut class since 2000 after receiving a record-breaking number of applications.

Cardman is one of five women and seven men who will join the existing corps of 44 NASA astronauts.

According to the Associated Press, Cardman and her fellow space-goers could “end up riding commercial rockets to the International Space Station, or flying beyond the moon in NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Their ultimate destination could be Mars.”

Cardman will become a full astronaut after completing a two-year training program, which starts in August, according to a Penn State news release.

Her selection is just the most recent team-up between Penn State and the American space program.

On Tuesday, the university announced the latest discoveries from an astronomy research group led by Ohio State and including Penn State that revealed a “newly discovered Jupiter-like world” hotter than the sun.

The university announced in May that it was part of a research team selected by NASA to “explore transformative system-level aviation innovations as part of NASA Aeronautics’ University Leadership Initiative.”

Penn State is set to get $1.7 million in research awards for that project.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce

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