Nicole Mann, The First Native American Woman in Space

She will lead NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission, which will stay on the International Space Station for five months.

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Nicole Mann poses for a portrait in a T-38 trainer jet at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, in 2018. Courtesy of NASA

Space Center on Wednesday in the late afternoon with an international crew of astronauts. The mission had already achieved greatness when the spacecraft sped past Earth’s atmosphere on its way to the International Space Station (ISS). Nicole Mann made history by becoming the first Native American woman in space with it.

Mann, a 45-year-old Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, is leading the SpaceX Crew-5 mission as mission commander. Elon Musk’s space firm has now transported humans to the ISS on behalf of NASA six times with this voyage.

Her momentous accomplishment comes 20 years after John Herrington, the first Native American to walk in space, did so in 2002. Additionally, Mann is the first female captain on a SpaceX mission. Before NASA discontinued the space shuttle programme in 2011, only two women—Eileen Collins and Pamela Melroy—had held the post on NASA space shuttle flights.

According to Maya Yang of the Guardian, Mann told reporters before takeoff, “I feel quite proud.” “It’s crucial that we acknowledge and promote our diversity, especially among the younger generation.”

According to NASA, Mann, who was raised in Petaluma, California, studied mechanical engineering at the United States Naval Academy before obtaining a master’s degree from Stanford. She joined the United States Marine Corps in 1999 as a second lieutenant and finished her flying training in 2001.

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Nicole Mann Courtesy of NASA

Her active flying career with the military, which has included 47 combat flights in Iraq and Afghanistan, began after she graduated as a navy aviator in 2003. In 2009, she also participated in test flights with the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet.

General David H. Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, referred to Mann as a “seasoned warfighter” and noted that she has more than 2,500 hours of flight time in 25 different types of aircraft. She started her astronaut training with NASA in 2013 and is currently a colonel in the Marine Corps. She resides in Houston with her husband and son.

Nicole Mann undergoes spacewalk training at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in 2014. Courtesy of NASA

Mann is “the crew’s quarterback” for Crew-5, according to Jackie Wattles’ CNN article. According to NASA, this implies she is in charge of “all phases of flight, from launch through re-entry.” Mann will perform the duties of an Expedition 68 flight engineer while on board the ISS.

Mann packed her wedding rings, a dream catcher from her mother, and a surprise gift for her family on her trip into space. She also hopes that by being there, future generations of astronauts from various backgrounds will be inspired.

She said in August on NPR’s “All Things Considered” that “these young women, maybe Natives, maybe folks from diverse backgrounds that recognise that they have these options and [that] possibly these walls that used to be there are starting to be broken down.”

On the Crew-5 mission, three additional astronauts also launched with Mann, and over the coming months, they will conduct a variety of experiments at the International Space Station. Josh Cassada, a Minnesota native who became an astronaut in 2013, is Mann’s second-in-command and the spacecraft’s pilot. This is Cassada’s first mission into space. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Koichi Wakata is an astronaut and mission specialist who is currently on his sixth space flight. Additionally, Anna Kikina is the first Russian cosmonaut to go on a U.S. spacecraft since 2002 and is undertaking her first space voyage.

The Expedition 68 crew, which also includes NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, Frank Rubio, and Jessica Watkins, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, will welcome the Crew-5 astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) after a 29-hour journey. Hines, Lindgren, Watkins, and Cristoforetti will return to Earth within a few days following Crew-5’s arrival, according to NASA.

More than 200 experiments will be carried out onboard the ISS by Crew-5, including studies of fluid behaviour in microgravity, cardiovascular health, and 3D printing of human tissue. The agency’s Artemis moon missions and, eventually, its expeditions to Mars, NASA hopes, will benefit from the knowledge gained from these research.

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