‘Made in space!’ Astronaut sews dinosaur toy from space station scraps

Karen Nyberg dinosaur toy
NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg’s stuffed toy dinosaur floats on the International Space Station. She made the doll for her son using materials she found on the orbiting outpost. (NASA)
There is a dinosaur on board the International Space Station where there wasn’t one before.

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, who since May has been working as a flight engineer as a member of the orbiting outpost’s resident crew, revealed the toy dinosaur floating on the space station on September 26.

“Made in space!” Nyberg, an Expedition 37 crewmember, exclaimed in her caption for a photo of the toy giant lizard she uploaded to the pinboard-style photo-sharing website Pinterest. “I made this dinosaur for my son last Sunday, September 22.”

The dinosaur, which resembles a Tyrannosaurus Rex, has an olive green back and a lighter green belly. It is stitched together with white thread.

Nyberg, a self-described crafter whose hobbies including quilting and sewing, packed threads, sewing needles and small fabric samples for her trip to space. But to make the dinosaur, she scavenged materials that she found around her orbital home.

“It is made out of velcro-like fabric that lines the Russian food containers [that are] found here on the International Space Station,” Nyberg wrote about the doll. “It is lightly stuffed with scraps from a used t-shirt.”

Astronauts have carried stuffed dolls to space before, and cosmonauts have a tradition of launching with small plush toys as talismans and “zero-g indicators.” When the dolls, which are suspended from the Soyuz spacecraft’s control panel, begin to float, the crew can tell they have entered orbit.

Nyberg’s crew launched with a plush white dog her Soyuz commander, Fyodor Yurchikhin, had received as a gift 30 years ago and had flown into space twice before. A small black cat doll, named “Dimlar,” served as the zero-gravity indicator for the crew that arrived September 26, named after cosmonaut Oleg Kotov’s children, Dima and Lara.

Karen Nyberg sewing
Expedition 37 flight engineer Karen Nyberg devotes some of her down time creating crafts in her “sewing space.” (NASA)

 

Nyberg’s dinosaur however, may be a new breed of space toy. It may be the first stuffed animal created in space.

In addition to sewing stuffed toys for him, Nyberg keeps in daily contact with her 3-year-old son Jack, sending down short videos for him every day. Nyberg’s husband, who is also an astronaut who last flew on the final space shuttle mission in 2011, sends up photos and videos of their son.

A photo Nyberg earlier shared on Pinterest revealed that Jack has his own handiwork in space, too. Hanging on the wall of her quarters is an orange and pink painting labeled “For Mommy.”

Nyberg is slated to return to Earth on Nov. 11, presumably with the toy dinosaur in tow.

Astronaut Chris Hadfield Returns to Earth

Chris Hadfield

By Kate Lunau from Macleans.com:

Hadfield saw space and Earth as if they were brand-new and shared his experience aboard the ISS with millions.

The wonder of Chris Hadfield

James Blair/NASA

On May 13, as the Toronto Maple Leafs faced off against the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of their Stanley Cup playoff series, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft was undocking from the International Space Station (ISS). Crammed inside like sardines were Chris Hadfield and his crewmates, American Tom Marshburn and Russian Roman Romanenko, returning home after five months in space. Underneath his spacesuit, Hadfield was wearing a Leafs T-shirt to support his favourite team. The Soyuz sliced down into the atmosphere and began to slow, subjecting the astronauts to a punishing 4 Gs—four times Earth’s gravity—and making their limbs feel leaden, their breathing laboured: a harsh reintroduction to gravity after the weightlessness of space. As the Soyuz dropped to its landing site on a Kazakhstan plain, search-and-rescue helicopters were circling.

The capsule hit the ground with the force of a car crash, tipping over onto its side. “I was hanging from the ceiling,” Hadfield says. “Roman was in the middle, and Tom was lying on the floor.” Marshburn looked out the window, and saw “dirt and grass where space had been just moments before.” The search-and-rescue team pried open the hatch and Hadfield and his crew were greeted by the scent of springtime, mixed with the burnt smell of their charred spaceship.

Dr. Raffi Kuyumjian, Hadfield’s flight surgeon, was one of three Canadian Space Agency (CSA) people in Kazakhstan. (Hadfield’s wife, Helene, was watching from mission control in Houston.) After the astronauts had been lifted from the spacecraft and were seated, draped in blankets, Kuyumjian said, “The first thing I did was dial Helene on my cell and give it to Chris.” He and Helene assured each other they were fine, then Hadfield asked: “How’d the Leafs do?” She broke the news that his team had lost in overtime. With that, Canada’s first space commander was truly brought back to Earth.

Since blasting off to the ISS on Dec. 19, Hadfield has become the most celebrated astronaut alive, one destined for a spot alongside his hero, Neil Armstrong, whose 1969 moon landing inspired his own career. But while half a billion people watched Armstrong climb out of the lunar lander and set foot on the moon, this is a more cynical time—one less impressed by technological achievement. People have lived and worked aboard the ISS continuously since 2000, and visiting low-Earth orbit isn’t as exotic as walking on the moon, let alone Mars or beyond. It’s a wonder that a Canadian astronaut like Hadfield could catch anyone’s attention, let alone captivate millions around the world. Yet, however improbably, that’s what he did.

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