UND alumna Nyberg set for six-month mission aboard International Space Station


Kate Menzies

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UND alumna Nyberg set for six-month mission aboard International Space Station

NASA and its International Space Station (ISS) partners have chosen University of North Dakota graduate Karen Nyberg to be part of a crew destined for a mission aboard the space station, beginning in late May.

This elite group will be the 36th crew to live and work aboard the International Space Station. You can follow Nyberg's mission on Twitter as she tweets from space @AstroKarenN.

Nyberg, a Vining, Minn., native, is the first UND alum and only the sixth Minnesotan ever to launch into space. Her first mission was aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. She graduated summa cum laude from UND in 1994, with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Nyberg, a NASA flight engineer, will launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, and arrive on the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz TMA-09M space craft on May 28. She is slated to return to earth in November.

Nyberg's UND experience helped propel her into space.

"UND has a great engineering program," she said. "It definitely gives you what you need, and it's a size that allows you to get personal attention if you need it.

"We have a lot of people from Purdue who work here at NASA; we have a lot of people from Texas A&M, Harvard, MIT and a lot of Ivy League schools. But with UND, the education is as solid, and maybe more. It was great preparation for my basic engineering skills."

Nyberg added that there are a number of folks at (Johnson Space Center) that have taken the long-distance Internet learning program from UND's Space Studies Department. And with the AgCam (Now ISSAC) project, "you definitely hear about UND, " she said.

Nyberg was referring to the UND student-designed-and-built ISSAC (International Space Station Agricultural Camera), which, until its retirement in January, sat aboard the ISS, sending back data-filled images of earth's soil and vegetation, as well as monitoring natural disasters around the world.

Although Nyberg is a technical whiz, she enjoys many other recreational interests: running, sewing, drawing, painting, backpacking, piano and spending time with family. She uses her free time in space to catch up on her favorite pastimes.

Once aboard the ISS, astronauts are required to perform at least two hours of exercise each day to combat loss of muscle. The ISS will allow Nyberg to enjoy her running while on a specially designed treadmill that uses a harness to hold her in place. On the ground, flight surgeons and trainers keep a close eye on workouts to provide insight to future crews and also to analyze beneficial impacts for those of us on earth.

Kate Menzies

University and Public Affairs student writer

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