NASA’s Nicole Aunapu Mann will be the first Native American woman to visit space

NASA is breaking new ground for astronauts. As Indian country today The agency reportedly recently confirmed that Marine Corps Colonel Nicole Aunapu Mann will be the first Native American woman to travel into space. The Wailacki tribesman will serve as mission commander for the SpaceX-powered Crew-5 mission, en route to the International Space Station, as early as September 29. Upon arrival, Mann will be Flight Engineer on the ISS Expedition 68 for a six-month stay.

The Crew-5 mission will also carry NASA’s Josh Cassada, Japan’s Koichi Wakata and Russia’s Anna Kikina to the ISS. Chickasaw Nation member John Herrington was the first Native American of either gender to visit space by flying aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 2002.

Mann has a background well suited to space travel. She began her career as a Navy aviator and has flown the F/A-18 Hornet while supporting mission operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. She also earned her master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford. NASA selected Mann as one of eight astronaut candidates in 2013. This group has since become influential, producing influential figures such as Anne McClain, Jessica Meir, and Crew Dragon pilot Victor Glover. Some of them, including Mann, have made NASA’s shortlist for the first manned Artemis missions to the Moon.

For Mann, this first space flight is not just historic. In her interview with ICT, she saw the journey as breaking down “barriers” for Native American children who didn’t believe they could become astronauts. It won’t be a surprise if more follow soon.

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