Karen LuJean Nyberg (born October 7, 1969) is an American mechanical engineer and NASA astronaut. Nyberg became the 50th woman in space on her first mission in 2008.

Nyberg started her space career in 1991 and spent a total of 180 days in space in 2008 and 2013 (as a Mission Specialist on STS-124 and a Flight Engineer on Soyuz TMA-09M).


Nyberg's hometown is Vining, Minnesota. She is married to astronaut Douglas Hurley and they have a son.[1] Her recreational interests include running, sewing, drawing and painting, backpacking, piano, and spending time with her family. Her parents, Kenneth and Phyllis Nyberg, still reside in Vining.[2]

Karen Nyberg STS124 - 2008June07 (NASA S124-e007134)

Karen Nyberg smiles for a photo while weightless, on the middeck of Discovery while docked with the ISS.


Nyberg graduated summa cum laude with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of North Dakota in 1994. She continued her studies at the University of Texas at Austin, centered on human thermoregulation and experimental metabolic testing and control, and focusing on the control of thermal neutrality in space suits. This work at the Austin BioHeat Transfer Laboratory led to her doctorate in 1998.[2][3]

She was selected as an Astronaut Candidate by NASA in July 2000. After two years of training and evaluation she qualified as a Mission Specialist and was assigned for technical duties in the Astronaut Office Station Operations Branch. She was Crew Support Astronaut for the Expedition 6 crew during their six-month mission on the ISS. In July 2006, Nyberg took part in NEEMO 10, a deep-sea training and simulation exercise at the Aquarius underwater laboratory to help NASA prepare for the return of astronauts to the moon and manned missions to Mars. Nyberg and her crewmates lived and worked underwater for seven days.[4][5]

Nyberg was in the crew of STS-124, which flew to the ISS in May 2008. This was the second of three flights to deliver components to complete the Japanese Kibō laboratory.[2] In May 2009, she was assigned to the STS-132 mission, which launched in May 2010,[6] but had to be replaced three months later due to a temporary medical condition.[7] Nyberg then served in a technical role until she received her next assignment, as a flight engineer on the Expedition 36/37.

She recently served as a flight engineer on Expedition 36 and Expedition 37 on the ISS, having launched on Soyuz TMA-09M. While in orbit, Nyberg was one of only two women in space on the 50th anniversary on June 16, 2013 of Vostok 6, the first spaceshot by a woman, Valentina Tereshkova, the other being Chinese astronaut Wang Yaping aboard the Tiangong-1 on the Shenzhou 10 mission.[8]

Awards and honorsEdit

She has won a host of awards including the UND Young Alumni Achievement Award (2004); Space Act Award (1993); NASA JSC Patent Application Award (1993); NASA Tech Briefs Award (1993); NASA JSC Cooperative Education Special Achievement Award (1994); Joyce Medalen Society of Women Engineers Award (1993–94); Best sandwich in space (2008, 2013); D.J. Robertson Award of Academic Achievement (1992) and University of North Dakota School of Engineering & Mines Meritorious Service Award (1991–1992).[2]


External linksEdit

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