NASA is breaking new ground for astronauts. As Indian Country Today reports, the agency recently confirmed that Marine Corps Col. Nicole Aunapu Mann would be the first Native American woman to go to space. The Wailacki tribe member will serve because the mission commander for the SpaceX-powered Crew-5 mission going to the International Space Station the moment September 29th. When she arrives, Mann will undoubtedly be ISS Expedition 68’s flight engineer throughout a six-month stay.
The Crew-5 mission may also ferry NASA’s Josh Cassada, Japan’s Koichi Wakata and Russia’s Anna Kikina to the ISS. Chickasaw Nation member John Herrington was the initial Native American of any gender to go to space, flying aboard the area Shuttle Endeavour in 2002.
Mann includes a background well-suited to spaceflight. She started her career as a Navy aviator and contains flown the F/A-18 Hornet while supporting missions operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. She also earned her master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford. NASA chose Mann as you of eight astronaut candidates in 2013. That group has since become influential, producing influential figures like Anne McClain, Jessica Meir and Crew Dragon pilot Victor Glover. A number of them, including Mann, have made NASA’s shortlist for the first crewed Artemis missions to the Moon.
For Mann, this first spaceflight is not only historic. In her interview with ICT, she saw the trip as smashing “barriers” for Native American children who didn’t think they might become astronauts. It will not be surprising if more follow her in a short time.
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