“I was very happy for her but not surprised,” he said. “She has a lot of skill and it was obvious to me that she would be chosen sooner or later. One of the greatest joys of being a professor is working with graduate students and Karen was absolutely an outstanding graduate student.”
Nyberg flew on NASA’s STS-124 mission, the second of three flights to launch components to the International Space Station to complete the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory.
She helped deliver Kibo’s tour bus-sized Japanese Pressurized Module, or JPM, which is the station’s largest module. The mission included three spacewalks to install and outfit the JPM and activate its robotic arm system.
Nyberg was one of four mission specialists on the eight-person crew. As a specialist she had the opportunity to operate all three robotic arms – the shuttle robotic arm, space station robotic arm and new Japanese robotic arm.
STS-124 was the 123rd space shuttle flight and the 35th flight for Discovery. The flight also made Nyberg the ninth Longhorn to travel into space.
Previous Longhorns in space have been Alan Bean (B.S.’55), Robert L. Crippen (B.S. ’60), Carl J. Meade (B.S. ’73), Michael A. Baker (B.S. ’75), Kenneth D. Cockrell (B.S. ’72), Paul S. Lockhart (M.S. ’81), Neil W. Woodward, III (M.A. ’88) and Stephanie D. Wilson (M.S. ’92). All are Cockrell School of Engineering graduates except Woodward who is a College of Natural Sciences alumnus.
“It is a great source of pride for the Cockrell School to produce eight astronauts,” said Ben Streetman, dean of the school. “That’s a large number and it speaks well of the program.”
Streetman noted that in addition to the astronauts a large number of graduates have gone on to work for NASA and play an important role in the space program.
“We have had an enormous impact on the space program.”