August 22, 2014

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Space station astronaut shares stories about missions

Astronaut Karen Nyberg speaks Thursday at NASA Glenn Research Center about the end of her mission. After spending months in space aboard the International Space Station, she returned to Earth in November aboard a Russian capsule. She said that after they landed, she was sitting upside-down strapped into her seat and they left her until last after the Olympic torch, which was carried into space, was removed. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Astronaut Karen Nyberg speaks Thursday at NASA Glenn Research Center about the end of her mission. After spending months in space aboard the International Space Station, she returned to Earth in November aboard a Russian capsule. She said that after they landed, she was sitting upside-down strapped into her seat and they left her until last after the Olympic torch, which was carried into space, was removed. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

CLEVELAND — Karen Nyberg has had a view of the world that most people will never see.

An astronaut for NASA, she spent six months living and working on the International Space Station as part of the Expedition 6 crew. During the expedition, the crew completed 2,656 orbits of the Earth while traveling more than 70 million miles.

The 44-year-old said spending time away from her family was hard, but there’s nowhere she’d rather be than in space.

“If I can just go, like that, and live there, and be there, and have my family with me, that would be fantastic. It’s really a neat place; it’s an amazing place to live,” she said.

Now in her “post-flight” period, Nyberg is enjoying spending time with her husband, also an astronaut, and their 4-year-old son. Nyberg is also traveling the United States to discuss her experiences in space, stopping in Cleveland on Thursday at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

The center played a role in Nyberg’s expedition.

Nyberg supported several experiments that were managed by Glenn, including the capillary flow experiment, which examines liquids’ behavior in microgravity environments. The experiment was designed to allow NASA to better design systems to process liquids aboard spacecraft, such as liquid fuel tanks, thermal fluids and water processing for life support, according to NASA.

Nyberg said during downtime she worked on a square for a quilt project. She said the simplest things on Earth are very difficult and time consuming in space. It's not as simple as just holding down a piece of material and cutting.

Nyberg said during downtime she worked on a square for a quilt project. She said the simplest things on Earth are very difficult and time consuming in space. It’s not as simple as just holding down a piece of material and cutting.

Other experiments included combustion and flame extinguishing studies. The Glenn Research Center also designed improved harnesses for running on the treadmill in space with help from the Cleveland Clinic.

Nyberg, who is an avid runner, said the new harnesses are more comfortable than those used in the past.

“The design that they came up with was spectacular, and I never wanted to stop running because the harness was hurting me, and in the past that has happened,” she said.

Nyberg said it’s important to keep active in space, especially given the effects from spending an extended amount of time in zero gravity.

Nyberg said her body has adjusted since returning to Earth in November, but she experienced some permanent changes in her vision, as well as muscle soreness in the first few weeks back home.

The trip to the International Space Station was Nyberg’s second spaceflight.

Nyberg served as Mission Specialist on STS -124 Discovery from May 31 to June 14, 2008, becoming the 50th woman in space. It was the 123rd space shuttle flight and the 26th flight to the International Space Station.

The shuttle astronauts conducted three spacewalks to maintain the station and to prime the Japanese Remote Manipulator System, a robotic arm used for work at the orbiting laboratory, during that trip.

Nyberg is also known for some of her more unusual “experiments” in space, such as constructing a 9-inch by 9-inch quilt patch in zero-gravity. She also passed the time by sending videos of herself covered in bubble wrap to her son, who was 3 at the time.

Nyberg told NASA staff that her experiences at the International Space Station were one-of-a-kind.

“It sounds so childish, but it’s really one of the funnest things,” she said.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.