Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Exclusive: CNN chats with astronaut Karen Nyberg live from space

By Becky Anderson, CNN
February 20, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NASA astronaut and engineer Karen Nyberg joins CNN from the International Space Station
  • Nyberg discusses space exploration, current work, women in science
  • She answers questions submitted from you via CNN.com, Facebook and Twitter

Leading Women connects you to extraordinary women of our time -- remarkable professionals who have made it to the top in all areas of business, the arts, sport, culture, science and more. Follow Karen Nyberg on Twitter.

(CNN) -- While traveling in the Earth's orbit over 240 miles up, American astronaut Karen Nyberg joined Leading Women anchor Becky Anderson for a live interview from the International Space Station (ISS) Friday.

When she's not working on scientific experiments, Nyberg can be found tweeting amazing pictures of the planet, chasing floating desserts in space and knitting. Read on for the full interview.

CNN: Station, this is CNN. How do you hear me?

Karen Nyberg: Good Morning CNN. This is station. I have you loud and clear.

Full interview: Chat with Karen Nyberg

CNN: Simeon Birchall, a CNN.com commenter asks is there huge competition for every seat on a shuttle launch?

KN: Well I don't know if I'd say competition. Definitely everybody that is in the astronaut office that wants to fly is very eager to do so even if they have gone before. Generally it's kind of going in order of when a class is selected, they start flying people from that class.

(Astronauts) come back to Earth after three to six months in space and have long term vision problems ... We are trying to figure out what exactly is causing that.
Karen Nyberg

And then it depends on what roles are needed. If we need to fly somebody that is going to be the commander of the space station, frequently most often that is somebody who has experience flying; if we need somebody who is going to be doing space walks, we need somebody that can do that. Back when we were flying the shuttle, there were a lot more specific tasks doing robotics ops and the space walks.

TIMELINE: 50 years of women in space

Now on the space station everybody pretty much has to do everything and so it's a little competitive I guess, but your turn comes along.

CNN: @Alizabev asks what type of experiments are you working on?

KN: This week we've been doing a lot of experiments on our ocular health. We've noticed some problems over the past several years with many of our astronauts.

They come back to Earth after three to six months in space and have long term vision problems, changes in their vision. We are trying to figure out what exactly is causing that.

Luca (Parmitano) and I have been involved in numerous tests. We're doing tonometry -- we are looking at the pressure of the eye. We are doing ultrasounds to look at the morphology of the eye, we are doing fundoscopy to take images of the retina, vision tests.

We are hoping that we can determine exactly what is causing this and hopefully mitigate the problem, especially if we start longer duration missions going to Mars ... we really need to understand this so we don't degrade the vision of every astronaut that is going into space.

Read: Ride, Sally Ride: You remember astronaut who inspired women

CNN: A commenter on CNN.com Marik asks what do you think of the Mars One project which aims to privately settle people on the planet?

"Sally Ride was making her first flight into space and she really impacted me.
Karen Nyberg

KN: I think it would be interesting. I think there are a lot of challenges and a lot of things that need to be figured out before that can be a successful mission.

Mars is a long ways away and we have a lot to learn ... I don't know how many years from now that will be, but that type of thing may become standard.

CNN: Floyd Moore aged 5 and Camper Carl of @AZChallenger both asked the same question: What is it like to sleep in space? And have you ever floated out of your bed?

KN: It's actually quite comfortable sleeping in space. We have sleeping bags that we hang from the wall. The first couple weeks when I was here, it was very important to me to feel like I was almost laying on something. I would lay with my legs sideways in the sleeping back so that I felt pressure along my back from one side of the sleeping bag and I felt pressure from my legs on the other side.

READ: Newly found planets might support life

Now I've become a little more adapted to it and I can just float there. And no, I've never floated out of the bed. I'm usually zipped in pretty well.

CNN: @Womenintheair asks: Which female astronauts influenced you? And have you met any of them as an astronaut?

KN: Sally Ride was making her first flight into space and she really impacted me. And also just looking back, I did some research on Valentina Tereshkova when I was in high school because she was the first female to fly in space.

And I actually did meet her last year for a brief moment before traveling to Baikonur as a back up for one of the missions. It was just (a) fantastic opportunity to get to meet her.

I never did meet Sally Ride. I met her sister after her passing but it would have been fantastic to meet her too. But I think those two, the firsts, those names stick in your head and they really become inspirations for you.

CNN: @nmedia_s asks do you think there is intelligent life in space -- besides the people at the ISS?

"It's hard to imagine that there isn't something out there that is similar to our solar system and could provide what the Earth provides for us.
Karen Nyberg

KN: I don't know. I don't think I'm smart enough to know. The universe is so big. It's hard to imagine that there isn't something out there that is similar to our solar system and could provide what the Earth provides for us.

But certainly we haven't seen that and you know, maybe some day we will.

It's hard for me to say whether I truly believe it or not. I think it's possible. I don't believe we've seen anything but it's possible there is life out there somewhere.

READ: Better 'baby picture' of universe emerges

CNN: @FumaiMartin asks how much physics and chemistry taught in high school helps at the International Space Station?

KN: I think any type of scientific class or mathematical class or any class really that you take is helpful even if you don't use the specific fundamentals that you learn in that class.

There is something about learning how to learn that I think is very important is a very broad spectrum. And the same for college, a lot of the classes you take you are like, you think to yourself 'I'm never going to use this.' And you know what, sometimes you don't ... But a lot of it you do use.

Even though we are working directly with the investigators of the scientific experiments. It's important for us understand what's going on so we can help and maybe we can see things and we can help them with their discoveries.

CNN: Greg Wagner on Facebook asks what one place on Earth would you most like to visit with only the knowledge of having seen it from the ISS?

KN: Oh wow! You know there are so many beautiful places that I don't even know how I would answer that.

Teaching class from a space lab
Aldrin: Space funding drying up quickly
Space tourists: Book your trip now
Would you take a one-way trip to Mars?

I've seen some mountain ranges that are just absolutely incredible ... But at the same time, I've come along some coastlines that look just breathtaking and so I guess I would have a lot of traveling to do if I were to go to every single place that I thought looked like a great place to be.

READ: Mars could have hosted life, says NASA

CNN: CNN Mexico commenter Luis Flores Gonzalez asks if you were offered the opportunity to take a one-way trip to the deepest part of the universe, would you accept it?

KN: A one-way trip, no. Especially with the current situation I'm in with a young son and a husband at home. I definitely would not want to do a really long, and definitely a one-way trip.

It might be a different story if I had family with me but I'd have to say no to that.

CNN: @Fadhelindonesia asks when you read my message what continent are you looking at?

KN: We just passed over the east coast of South America and we are heading up towards Africa. We should be there in just a couple of minutes. And then we'll head up over Europe and into Asia.

CNN: Leading Women co-anchor Kristie Lu Stout tweeted: We hear you're a bit of a DIY design geek. Do you get crafty in space?

KN: I have been trying to do a little bit. ... It's amazing. Time goes by so fast and in the weekdays and on the evenings, there's absolutely no time for that.

Sundays is really my day and I actually got a few things out the other day and drew up a design on a piece of paper and cut up some old T shirts and have started sewing things together.

Not quite sure exactly how it is going to turn out but ... when I find the time to sit there and do that only, hopefully I'll get something done.

WATCH THE FULL LIVE STREAM INTERVIEW

Tara Kelly and Lauren Said-Moorhouse contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
NASA's chief scientist Dr Ellen Stofan wants to land humans on Mars by 2035, but there are some serious challenges to overcome before then.
November 4, 2014 -- Updated 1041 GMT (1841 HKT)
The Design Museum hosts a power dressing exhibition, from Joan of Arc's short tunics, to Joan Collins' eye-gouging shoulder pads.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1520 GMT (2320 HKT)
Opinion piece from architect Zaha Hadid on growing up in a very different Iraq, to close Leading Women's month of STEM coverage.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Leading Women ran an iReport assignment which resulted in some amazing images of girls in STEM from our readers.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1108 GMT (1908 HKT)
Robots can be many things -- knowledgeable, dexterous, strong. But can they ever be genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious?
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1830 GMT (0230 HKT)
Victoria Beckham has come a long way from Posh Spice. She has now been named Britain's top entrepreneur, by magazine Management Today.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1447 GMT (2247 HKT)
Just one in seven engineers are female. STEM experts share their ideas on how to get more girls into the industry.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
In 2006 she sold her business to Estée Lauder in a reported multi-million dollar deal, five years later she started a brand new company.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1014 GMT (1814 HKT)
Some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs have come from women, though like so many inventors their names are lost in the pages of history.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1202 GMT (2002 HKT)
Leading Women hosted a Twitter Chat celebrating girls in science with guests including race car drivers, software developers and coders.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 0936 GMT (1736 HKT)
There's a fine science to running a billion dollar company. Rosalind Brewer should know -- she used to study chemistry.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Join our twitter chat @CNNIwomen on October 9 at 5pm GMT/12pm EST and look for #CNNwomen #IDG14.
ADVERTISEMENT