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Casual Space

Feb 29, 2024

Dr. Karen Nyberg is an engineer, astronaut, and artist who, through nearly thirty years of experience in human spaceflight, has gained an appreciation for the value of working within and across diverse political ideologies, cultural values, and world views to advance critical missions.

In this episode of Casual Space, Beth and Karen delve into Karen's journey from learning how to sew by her mother, to creating art inspired by her space missions. Karen discusses her love for quilting, which she began during graduate school, and how the breathtaking views from the space station influenced her artwork. She recounts her interactions with fellow astronaut-artist Alan Bean and the challenges of finding creative time in space and making a special dinosaur quilt for her son. Additionally, Karen shares her experiences with space food, her fabric design work, and her passion for trail running. The episode provides a glimpse into how Karen balanced her professional duties with her artistic pursuits and personal life, both on Earth and in orbit.

Check out Karen’s artwork and more:

About Karen: 

Karen was selected as a member of the NASA Astronaut Corps in 2000. She made her first trip to space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 2008, during the height of International Space Station (ISS) construction, delivering and installing the Japanese Laboratory. On her second spaceflight in 2013, Karen launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and lived and worked at ISS for 166 days.

Prior to astronaut selection, Karen worked as an Environmental Control Systems Engineer at the Johnson Space Center where she led several design and analysis initiatives in the areas of space vehicle and space suit thermal and environmental control.  Recently retired from NASA, Karen is currently pursuing interests in the areas of conservation and sustainability, fully appreciating the responsibility for innovation and technology to strive to meet those needs.

Karen received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Dakota and graduate degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and has been honored with the highest alumni award from each alma mater.

Karen lives in Park City, Utah with her husband, Astronaut Doug Hurley, their son, Jack, and two sweet dogs, Leo and Luke.