International Space Station

Cardman in her NASA gear.
Robert Markowitz / NASA

Zena Cardman knew she might not have another opportunity to pursue poetry. She was about to dive into graduate research on microbiology in extreme environments when she put that plan on ice, and opted to write a poetry collection for her undergraduate thesis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Christina Koch is in between two astronauts in space suits.
NASA

A North Carolinian is slated to set a new record on the International Space Station.

Houston Kidd takes a break from his job as a naval recruiter to read from his children's book, Willow The Water Bear, which was recently selected to be read by an astronaut at the International Space Station.
Lisa Philip / WUNC

On a sunny December day, Houston Kidd sits in an empty computer lab at the U.S. naval office near N.C. State, where he recently started working as a recruiter. Kidd is dressed in camouflage fatigues, reading from his first and only book, so far, Willow the Water Bear.

The book cover to "An Astronaut's Guide To Life On Earth."
Little, Brown and Company

Astronaut Chris Hadfield was first inspired to pursue a career in space travel at 9 years old after watching the Apollo 11 Moon landing on television. The desire to explore space led him to the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, the Canadian Armed Forces and eventually to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).