NASA Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann Becomes First Native American Woman in Space

Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images

Videos by Rare

Videos by Rare

Marine Colonel Nicole Aunapu Mann took one small step for man, one giant leap for Native American women.

Mann, 45, was part of a four-person crew that blasted off aboard SpaceFalcon X from blast off from Florida. It is bound for the International Space Station. She was joined by Josh Cassada, Japan’s Koichi Wakata and Russia’s Anna Kikina, and will be “orbiting in a Crew Dragon capsule and set to reach the outpost in 29 hours,” per USA Today.

All of this makes Mann the first Native American woman in space.

“(I hope it) will inspire young Native American children to follow their dreams and realize that some of those barriers that are there or used to be there are being broken down,” she told BBC. “Anytime we are able to do something that is a first, or wasn’t done in the past, it’s so important. They have these opportunities.”

Nicole Aunapu Mann Becomes First Native American Woman in Space

On a personal level, this is Mann’s first journey into space. She she is serving as flight commander — meaning she is responsible for every last aspect of the mission. That included the launch and will include reentry.

Once Mann and her crew arrive at the space station, they will be joined by seven other astronauts. She has been one since 2013.

A native of California, Mann earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. She brought some of her history with her on the flight.

“I have a special dreamcatcher that my mother gave me which will be another little piece of my family to carry with me,” she told BBC.

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