Nicole Aunapu Mann is set to become the first Native American woman to go to space. As a member of the Round Valley Indian Tribe in Northern California, Mann knows she’s breaking a prominent glass ceiling. Therefore, she hopes other Native girls get inspired to follow their dreams no matter how difficult they initially seem.
More about the Upcoming Mission
Mann will lead and be the commander of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station in late September/early October. This mission will be Mann’s first spaceflight since becoming an astronaut in 2013.
As far as her responsibilities, Mann will be in charge of all phases of the flight, from launch to re-entry, as well as manage the small crew accompanying her on the mission.
Mann Sets an Example Throughout her Career
Prior to becoming the first Native American woman in space, Mann achieved an incredible amount in her career. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy.
Then, Mann earned her Master’s degree in mechanical engineering, specializing in fluid mechanics, from Stanford University. Mann is also highly decorated in the service and a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps.
The First Native American Man in Outer Space
The first Native American man in space, John Herrington, broke one glass ceiling for Indigenous people everywhere. In 2002, Herrington was the first enrolled member of a Native American tribe in space, offering Indigenous representation in prominent areas of work. To remain tied to his Native roots, Herrington brought his eagle feather and Native American flute with him into space.
Mann’s Influence on the Native American Community
Being the first Native American woman in space, Mann says it’s “important that we celebrate our diversity and really communicate that specifically to the younger generation.” Further, Mann feels it’s important to promote other Indigenous success stories to the younger members of tribes across the country.
Additionally, Mann feels it’s essential to feel connected to her roots while she takes on her first spaceflight, similar to Herrington. That said, Mann intends to bring a few sentimental personal items with her to space.
“I have this dream catcher… it’s kind of always stayed with me throughout my time,” Mann says about what she’s packing for her mission.
Mann’s success and the fact that she is the first to go to space sets a strong foundation for young Indigenous girls striving to accomplish similar goals.