Nicole Aunapu Mann to become first Native American woman in space: Long journey that's been "well worth it"

Nicole Aunapu Mann to become first Native American woman in space: Long journey that's been "well worth it"

Her message for young people with dreams is to "chase down all of those dreams and never discount yourself."

This is another milestone for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as they prepare to send Nicole Aunapu Mann aboard the SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on October 3, 2022, according to Reuters. She will be the mission commander and will be joined by Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and NASA Space traveler Josh Cassada. They will swap out Crew-4 from the ISS and take their place after departing from Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

Born in California, Mann is a proud member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes in Northern California. She said "it's very exciting" to be a part of this space venture. "It has been a long journey, but it's been so well worth it," she said. Speaking of the enthusiasm this news has generated in her community, she said that it is "an audience that we don't get an opportunity to reach out to very often." She said that it is important to honor diversity, especially for the younger generation. "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 explained.



As CBS reported, Mann’s credentials include a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering from the United States Naval Academy and a master’s degree in the same field specializing in fluid mechanics from Standford University. Additionally, she was a former fighter pilot who flew two US combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. She now holds the rank of colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. She was selected by NASA in 2013 as one of the eight members in the 21st NASA astronaut class that focuses on space station operations and possibly space exploration to near asteroids, Earth’s moon, or eventually Mars.

Mann wants to carry a few items to the orbit that remind her of her home. The mementos include a “dreamcatcher,” part of Native American and First Nation heritages, which her mother gave her long ago, per NPR. "And that's something that I'll keep with me in my crew quarters while I'm on board space station," she said. 



She has a message for young people with dreams. Mann says that the first thing to do is to "never discount yourself" adding that if you never try to achieve a goal or a dream, you're never going to make it. She encourages every young person to take the opportunity and "chase down all of those dreams."

The mission will also be following NASA’s landmark Artemis mission which Mann says "is an incredible step for all of humankind - this time going to the moon to stay." She thinks that "it's really the building blocks for our exploration to Mars. So it's just a huge step in, I think, our evolution as humans." Artemis mission, which was originally set to launch on Monday, August 29th was delayed due to a crucial engine issue and the launch date is now pushed to September 3, 2022. This mission’s goal is to put the first woman and person of color on the moon by 2025. 

Cover Image Source: Getty Images/ Bill Ingalls

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