Karen Nyberg dreamed of being an astronaut ever since she was a child, but while conducting graduate research at UT in 1997, she seemed a bit discouraged. That year she told the Alcalde, “I will apply, but it’s very difficult, and I’m not planning on it.”
Now 16 years later, Nyberg, MS ’96, PhD ’98, is making her second trip to space in May, where she’ll spend six months on the International Space Station. Her first 14-day mission in May of 2008 marked the moment she became the 50th woman and ninth Longhorn to travel to space.
On NASA TV today, Nyberg said she’s looking forward to living there for such a large amount of time, noting that the first trip felt much like a sprint. Being there for six months will provide time to do one thing she missed the first time around: capture a picture of her hometown—Vining, Minn.—from space.
Nyberg told journalists at NASA TV that the most common problems astronauts experience usually deal with their bodies. “It’s what happens to our bodies with the lack of gravity,” she said. “We lose bone mass and our hearts don’t have to work quite as hard.”
Luckily, Nyberg is an accomplished runner. She said running marathons has prepared her for the difficulties she’ll face on her trip to space. She anticipates moments that she’ll feel discouraged because she’ll miss her family, but just as she powered through the marathons, she said she’ll find strength to work through it.
Nyberg will participate in various experiments on her trip as well. She plans to work on a study to discover why some astronauts come back from space with blurred eyesight, and she’ll also participate in a hipbone study to investigate certain structural changes.
In her free time, she wants to do things she’d normally do on Earth. She hopes to relax with some hobbies that most people would be surprised to discover she has—crafting and sewing. She said she’ll be sure to take her sketchpad, pencils, and a needle and thread.
Nyberg plans on staying connected through social media. “I haven’t decided yet if I’ll use Twitter,” she said. “But I’ve been using Pinterest and love it because of my personal hobbies. I think it would be neat to add on to that while I’m there.”
As a part of Expedition 36, Nyberg is scheduled to launch to the space station on May 28, 2013, returning in November 2013.
Photo courtesy of NASA.