Minnesota native and astronaut Karen Nyberg went aloft Tuesday afternoon on her second space flight and first long-term stay on the International Space Station.
Nyberg, of Vining, a small town in Otter Tail County three hours northwest of the Twin Cities, was joined in the Soyuz rocket by commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano. The group launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and boarded the space station early Wednesday.
The 43-year-old Nyberg, who attended the University of North Dakota and later earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering at the University of Texas, said she is bringing along knitting and sketching supplies for her six-month stay.
"I'm really hoping to spend some of my free time drawing," Nyberg, a mother of one, said in an interview with NASA. "I used to mostly draw portraits and gave them to friends, but I haven't done it in a long time. I am hoping I can get back to some of that while I am in space."
Nyberg spent two weeks in space in 2008 as part of a U.S. space shuttle mission to service the International Space Station.
Nyberg's high school, in Henning, planned a Tuesday open house where the community could watch the launch together.
Yurchikhin, 54, is a veteran of three previous spaceflights, while the 36-year-old Parmitano, a former test pilot, is making his first trip into space.
The three will join NASA's Chris Cassidy and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin, who have been aboard the space station since late March.
Four spacewalks are planned during the expedition, including what NASA said would be the first by an Italian.
The International Space Station is the biggest orbiting outpost ever built and can sometimes be seen from Earth with the naked eye. It consists of more than a dozen modules built by the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency.
THANKS TO THE SAINT PAUL PIONEER PRESS