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Space chat with astronaut Karen Nyberg
02:34 - Source: CNN

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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

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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?

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.

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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?

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.

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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.

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.


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