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Vining native headed into space

Astronaut Karen Nyberg, a native of Vining, Minn. in Ottertail County, will be going on a six month scientific mission to the International Space Station on May 28. Here, Nyberg gazes down towards Earth on a previous ISS mission. Image courtesy of NASA.

Dr. Karen Nyberg, a NASA astronaut and native of Vining, Minn., will be headed to the International Space Station on May 28. She will be launching from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan for a mission lasting six months, and spoke to the PJ briefly on Thursday morning from the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. The following are excerpts from that interview.

PJ: What do people in Vining think of your career as an astronaut? For example, how did they react when you were first selected as an astronaut, or maybe when you first went into space?

Nyberg: I think for a town the size of Vining, it’s obviously very unusual, and as far as I can tell, people are very proud. I know my family is very proud. I remember my oldest sister, after I was selected as an astronaut, commenting --because I wanted to be an astronaut since I was a little girl -- and I remember her commenting that she always thought it was ‘so cute’ that I said I wanted be an astronaut. (Laughs) But I think they’re all proud.

PJ: I understand that you want to take pictures of Vining from space. How do you plan to do that?

Nyberg: Well, I will do my best (...) we have a program on board that will let us know what time we’re passing over various parts of the earth and I will try and time that on a clear day. That was one of the problems on my space shuttle flight: I had, I think, one opportunity where we would be passing over Vining during some of my free time, and it happened to very cloudy. So this time, I’m hoping with six months on orbit, I will find the opportunity to get a shot during the day and at night.

PJ: What’s one thing you want the average person to know about being an astronaut that they don’t know already?

Nyberg: I think one thing that’s important for people to understand is (...) we are all just normal, ordinary people leading very, very ordinary lives, and we just happen to have an extraordinary job.

PJ: Are you less nervous this time around than the first time you went into space?

Nyberg: Probably a little less nervous. I wasn’t necessarily all that nervous the first time, because the training that we get is so incredible, and it really, really prepares you for absolutely everything. This time will be different because I am now married with a child, and so that portion of it will probably get at my nerves a little more --in a new feeling-- than what I had the last time I went.

PJ. I understand that you’re going up with a Russian astronaut and an Italian astronaut? How do you deal with that (language barrier)?

Nyberg: That’s correct. Our Russian commander, Fyodor Yurchikhin, speaks very good English, and Luca Parmitano from Italy speaks fantastic English. He spent some time in the U.S., and he also speaks Russian very, very well (...) The biggest struggle is, my Russian is probably the worst, so we do a combination of English and Russian, and we all understand each other.

Zach Kayser, Wadena Pioneer Journal

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