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Motherhood from space: Astronaut Karen Nyberg celebrates being a Mom before embarking on a new mission


Expedition 36/37 Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg of NASA shares a quiet moment with her son. Photo credit: NASA
Expedition 36/37 Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg of NASA shares a quiet moment with her son. Photo credit: NASA

Staff writers

May 12, 2013 — Mothers sacrifice a lot to raise their children and the 2nd Sunday of every May is a chance to show appreciation for their hard work - but what happens when you have to spend a lot of time away from your children? For astronaut Karen Nyberg, today provides a welcome reflection, only a few weeks away from embarking on a long-duration mission to the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Expedition 36/37 flight engineer, participates in a routine operations training session. Photo credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Expedition 36/37 flight engineer, participates in a routine operations training session. Photo credit: NASA

Living over 320 km up in space is a dream most can only imagine.

For an astronaut, it's a welcome reward for years of hard work but the payoff of looking down on Earth isn't always easy, especially if you have young children. 

Expedition 36/37 Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg is weeks away from beginning a long mission at the International Space Station - so she is savouring every moment of this Mother's Day. 

Nyberg isn't the first female to balance motherhood with a space mission. NASA's Nicole Stott and Cady Coleman served as Flight Engineers for long-duration missions while having elementary-school-aged sons. 

In an interview with Parenthood magazine's Elina Bolokhova, Nyberg outlined her difficulties in balancing being a mum and NASA astronaut.

"I think I've always been somebody who has worked very hard to excel at absolutely everything I do and I never accepted 'good enough,'" says Nyberg. "Since I've become a mother, I've realized that in order to balance my life with my family and my job, I need to accept 'good enough' on some things and that's okay."

Nyberg will be spending 6 months up in the station, away from her husband and 3-year old son. 

Despite the distance, they'll still remain in constant contact. 

"When I'm in space, we have an internet protocol phone that I can call them on every day. However, video conferences will only be once a week and I think that's going to be a little unusual."

The learning process

Being a new parent and working long hours can be harrowing but Nyberg has always taken it one step at a time. 

"When it comes to being a parent, you kind of learn by doing. One of the main things that I try to do is not make it negative that I'm leaving. I never insinuate that there's anything negative about what's going on and I keep him a part of the life that we're leading. It's a normal thing."

While her 3-year old might not fully understand what's going on, Nyberg will be sure to send lot's of pictures and videos showing life on the ISS. 

In return, she hopes her husband will do the same. 

"I think there will be a lot of pictures taken and a lot of video taken. My son will be starting preschool in September, so I will miss his first day of school. Which makes me sad, but there will be a lot of pictures and my husband is going do a great job of getting him out the door to his first day of school."

Long distances can put a strain on any relationship but astronaut Karen Nyberg has it all planned out. It's simply a matter of working around the final frontier. 


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