- NASA and SpaceX just launched the first Native American woman into space: astronaut Nicole Mann.
- Mann is a member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, and a colonel in the Marine Corps.
Nicole Mann just became the first Native American woman in space.
The NASA astronaut launched into Earth’s orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Wednesday, on a mission she’s commanding to the International Space Station.
Mann is a member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes. She previously said she was bringing her mother’s dream catcher to the ISS with her.
“I will keep that with me in my crew quarters when I sleep aboard the International Space Station,” Mann told The Wall Street Journal ahead of her mission.
Alongside her are astronauts Josh Cassada from NASA, Koichi Wakata from the Japanese space agency (JAXA), and Russia’s sole female cosmonaut, Anna Kikina. Only Kikina has been to space before.
“That was a smooth ride uphill,” Mann told mission control from orbit, moments after Crew Dragon separated from the final stage of its Falcon 9 rocket. “You’ve got three rookies that are pretty happy to be floating in space right now and one veteran astronaut who’s pretty happy to be back as well.”
Mann is a colonel in the Marine Corps and has worked on aircraft carriers supporting combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. She became an astronaut in 2013.
“As a little kid, I was interested in math and science, but I didn’t realize that being an astronaut was actually in the realm of possibilities,” she told the Journal.
“There are people that still grow up in communities where there are boundaries,” she added. “And if they can realize that these boundaries are being broken down and can be broken down, hopefully that empowers them to really pursue their dreams.”
John Herrington, a member of the Chickasaw nation, became the first Native American to reach space in 2002, according to NASA.
This is Mann’s first trip to space, but it’s probably not her last. She is also slated to fly on the first crewed test mission of Boeing’s Starliner spaceship, which was developed through the same NASA program that birthed Crew Dragon. Starliner has encountered several technical glitches and delays, and it still needs to fly an uncrewed test mission to the ISS before NASA fills it with astronauts.