Coming in with some good news to start the weekend and a win for representation, NASA announced its new crew. Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann, of the Wailacki Round Valley Indian Tribes, will be the first Native American woman to go to space, as part of NASA’s new crew to the International Space Station (ISS).
In charge of the SpaceX Crew-5 mission, with plans to set off on Sept. 29, Mann will be joined by NASA astronaut Josh Cassada, Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata.
She will be leading all phases of the flight, starting from the crew’s launch at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida through their re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
“It’s very exciting,” Mann told the Indian Country Today (ICT) Thursday.
ICT reports on Indigenous communities. Speaking to the outlet, Mann said she hopes her trip empowers Native American children and that some barriers are “starting to get broken down.”
“I think it’s important that we communicate this to our community, so that other Native kids, if they thought maybe that this was not a possibility, or to realize that some of those barriers that used to be there are really starting to get broken down,” she said.
The California native, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, was selected by NASA in June 2013.
A Colonel in the Marine Corps with a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Mann was selected by NASA in 2013. She previously served as a test pilot and was deployed twice aboard aircraft carriers for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to her NASA profile, Mann has received two Air Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
Her space station mission comes during the year of the 20th anniversary of when NASA astronaut and citizen of Chickasaw Nation, John Herrington, flew aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. That mission in 2002 made Herrington the first Native American to enter space, CBS News reported.
But being the first Native American woman in space is not the only title Mann is going for.
According to National Geographic, Mannn is also in the running to be the first woman on the moon in a landing set for 2025.
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