NASA Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann has become the first Native American woman in space, as well as the first woman to command the Crew Dragon capsule. Mann launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center yesterday as part of the Crew-5 mission toward the International Space Station.
Her three colleagues are NASA’s Josh Cassada, Koichi Wakata from the Japanese Space Agency, and Roscomos’ Anna Kikina. This is the first time that a Russian cosmonaut has launched from the US in 20 years. For Mann, Cassada, and Kikina, this is their first time in space – but Wakata is almost at the other end of the spectrum, having logged four Space Shuttle missions, a Soyuz mission, and a long-duration stay on the ISS.
Mann had previously served as an engineer in the US military forces and has a bachelor of science and a master's degree in mechanical engineering. She is enrolled in Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes in Northern California, and she has been with NASA since 2013.
“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,” Mann told Indian Country Today in August.
Mann is also part of the Artemis Team, the astronauts selected by NASA expected to walk on the surface of the Moon over the next decade.