Vining native Karen Nyberg, one of the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, is serving as flight engineer for Expedition 36. She flew to the space station on a Russian-built Soyuz space craft in May.
Part of her duties include working as a mechanical engineer and as an expert on environmental and thermal controls.
Nyberg talked to MPR's Morning Edition from space about how the time in a gravity-free atmosphere has impacted the health and fitness of her colleagues. She also said she keeps up her earth-bound interests in space.
Nyberg said that unlike other spacecraft, the space station is comparatively roomy.
"The International Space Station is quite large. We have a number of modules. We have the Russian segment and the United States segment. And we have, you know, 10 modules or so on the U.S. segment that are quite large, the size of a school bus or bigger. So it's very easy," she said. "We each have our own sleeping quarters, if you feel like you do need to get away from each other. And when we're working throughout the day, sometimes we're working in the same module, sometimes we're separated. So really the privacy is good and interpersonally, I think this is a great place to be."
The crew includes two Russians, a Georgian, two Americans and an Italian. The mission includes US experiments involving satellite power technology, an Italian experiment on biofuels and a NASA study of the effects of long-term space flight on the eyes of astronauts.
Nyberg says the days go by quickly and there's a lot of work to do.
"You really realize that there's not a lot of free time, especially on weekdays. And by the time we finish our workday and get done with our daily planning conference that we do with all the space centers around the world, then its time for dinner, and phone calls to family and that type of thing and then the day is done," Nyberg said. "On the weekends, we have about half the day on Saturday where we have free time and them most of Sunday. We all like to go and take pictures out of the window. We read, we sit and chat with each other. I bought some projects to work on. I'm trying to do a little bit of sewing. I haven't done as much as I would like, but like I said, the free time, the time just goes so fast here."
But she did manage to snap a picture of her hometown of Vining from space recently. The town is between Fergus Falls and Brainerd in northwestern Minnesota. (View the photo by clicking here.)
"I had been waiting to get a picture of it," Nyberg said. "And every single time we passed over it was very cloudy. And then one time I was working on a project, and (Chris Cassidy) called over intercom and said 'Karen, its clear in Minnesota.' And so I went down to the cupola and got some pictures and I think everybody in my hometown area really enjoyed it."
The current crew from the ISS is expected to return to earth in September.