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NASA’s Nicole Aunapu Mann set to become first Indigenous woman in space

Come this fall, NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann will be the first Native American woman in space.

Mann will join NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission as the Dragon spacecraft commander, where she will be responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry, as well as a flight engineer, NASA announced earlier this month.

Mann, of Petaluma, California, is a member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes in Northern California, according to Indian Country Today.

Nicole Aunapu Mann is enrolled in the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes.

“It’s very exciting,” she told the outlet on becoming the first Indigenous woman in space. “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.”

John Herrington, an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, became the first Native American man to fly in space in 2002. He carried the nation’s flag and a traditional flute on his 13-day voyage.

Mann told ICT she plans to bring a dream catcher her mother gave her, as well as her wedding rings and surprise gifts her family is planning for her.

The expedition will be Mann’s first spaceflight since becoming an astronaut in 2013, when she was chosen as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class. 

Mann is also a Colonel in the Marine Corps. She has numerous accolades to her name, including two Air Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and the NASA 2015 Stephen D. Thorne Safety Award.

In this Saturday, April 24, 2021, file photo made available by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaches the International Space Station for docking.
The expedition will be Mann’s first spaceflight since becoming an astronaut in 2013.
In this image released by NASA, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft stands upright after it was raised raised into a vertical position on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla
The Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon Endurance spacecraft will launch after Sept. 29.
Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP

On the mission, Mann will be joined by fellow NASA astronaut Josh Cassada, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina.

The Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon Endurance spacecraft is scheduled to launch no earlier than Sept. 29 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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