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Space Station Astronaut is a Quilter

Space Station Astronaut is a Quilter

By Janelle Cahoon, Quiltcentric

Karen Nyberg seems like a lot of other quilters.  She’s a working mom who learned to sew at an early age, has done both clothing and home décor sewing and makes lots of quilts as gifts.

What’s different?  She’s also an astronaut!

Ms. Nyberg will be launching May 28th aboard a Soyuz spacecraft with crewmates Luca Pamitano and Fyodor Yurchikhin for a flight to the International Space Station. The trio will join NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Pavel Vinogadov and Alexsander Misurkin.

Crew members are busy with scientific research while aboard the space station.  During her 6-month stay Ms. Nyberg, who holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering, will help in conducting the more than 200 experiments that are scheduled.

But Ms. Nyberg has creative plans for her free time; she’s bringing four fat quarters of fabric, needles and thread with her into space.  She may also have access to fabric in several colors from the discarded flights suits of previous astronauts from many countries. (Because there are no laundry facilities on the space station, crew members discard their flights suits after a week of wear and add them to the trash stored inside an empty resupply ship.  This ship is eventually jettisoned and burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere.)

“I’m hoping to create something,” she said in a televised interview from Moscow.  “I don’t know what yet it will be – that’s part of creativity.  It comes with the feeling of the day.  So I have the supplies at my hands to create, if I get the opportunity and the creative notion to do so.”

Quilting in space will naturally come with some unique challenges in a zero-gravity environment.  In a series of Tweets several weeks ago (@AstroKarenN ), Ms. Nyberg mentioned that keeping control of the fabric may prove difficult and the “thread could be a mess if too much gets off the spool!! I’ll be keeping a short leash on mine!”

In another Tweet about whether scissors are safe to use in space, she said, “Running w/scissors bad, but floating w/ scissor A-OK pointy side down of course!”

When asked whether the creative thought process or energy is different off-planet, Ms. Nyberg Tweeted that she had that question herself and was looking forward to finding out the answer.

“I love to create,” Ms. Nyberg is quoted as saying in her NASA profile.  “I would really like people to see you can have a job like this, which is very technical, and still have hobbies that are not.”

I hope we’ll be able to find out more about her in-space creativity and update this article when she returns to Earth!


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