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University of ND alum delivers commencement speech from space

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GRAND FORKS -- Astronaut and University of North Dakota alumna Karen Nyberg told graduates Friday that she wanted to give a speech that was "literally out of this world."

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Nyberg, who hails from Vining, Minn., was orbiting some 230 miles above Earth aboard the International Space Station when she recorded the brief message last week for the 2013 summer commencement. She praised her alma mater for the educational opportunities it offered herself and other graduates.

"Global understanding is key to the survival of our planet," she said. "You are all lucky to be graduating from a university with such a strong international presence, with some 70 countries represented."

Nyberg, the first UND alumna and the sixth Minnesotan ever to go into space, is serving a six-month mission. Her speech played on a screen at the Chester Fritz Auditorium in front of a packed audience who had shown up to support the 157 or so graduates who appeared for the ceremony.

Nyberg's speech marks the second time UND graduates have observed a commencement delivered from space, according to university spokesman Peter Johnson.

Sean O'Keefe, a former top NASA administrator, gave a speech in 2005 that included a prerecorded message from astronauts.

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