Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann is set to become the first Native American woman in space when NASA launches its new crew to the International Space Station this fall.
Mann will serve as SpaceX Crew-5 mission commander and will be joined by three others, astronaut and pilot Josh Cassada, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina.
“I feel, I think in a word, absolutely excited,” said Mann, an enrolled Wailacki member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes. ABC News. “The launch training we’ve had with this crew, it’s going to be an incredible mission.”
Born in California, Mann is a graduate of the US Naval Academy, where she was a varsity women’s soccer captain. She earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Stanford and later became a colonel in the United States Marine Corps. She was twice deployed aboard aircraft carriers, flying missions in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and received six medals for her service.
“Teamwork is so important to human spaceflight,” she told ABC News. “And I think my experience in the Marine Corps and also playing football on a team really helped develop that.”
The expedition will be Mann’s first spaceflight since becoming an astronaut in 2013. She is one of eight members of NASA’s 21st class of astronauts, dubbed the ‘Eight Balls’, trained for operations of the space station and potential future missions to the Moon and Mars.
During the next mission, scheduled to launch on Monday, October 3, the team will conduct scientific experiments to benefit life on Earth and prepare for human exploration of outer space. Their preparation included classes on space station systems, Russian language, and robotics, as well as science, physiology, and survival classes.
“We’ll have the chance to do a few spacewalks, piloting the robotic arm, and so there’s a lot to do in that preparation to be ready for your mission,” Mann said.
Cassada, who along with Mann are the last two in their class to fly in space, described her as “incredibly capable” and one of her “closest friends”.
“His ability to shift gears is really interesting – that ability to say, ‘OK, Josh, you’re kidding. We’re done joking. We’re focused and we’re 100% operational right now,'” he said. he told ABC. New. “And it’s really good that it takes us all in exactly the same direction, in a very organic way.”
In his 3.3 Personal Items books, Cassada said he plans to pack 1980s movies for the team to watch every Friday, teasing Mann for never understanding his movie references and jokes. , although he grew up in the 80s.
Mann, on the other hand, said she would bring her wedding ring and a gift from her mother when she was young: a dreamcatcher, which in some Native American cultures symbolizes unity and offers protection.
In 2002, when John Herrington, an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, became the first Native American man to fly in space, he carried the nation’s flag and a traditional flute on his 13-day journey.
Ultimately, Mann said, “it doesn’t matter if you’re female or male or what country you’re from, or your gender or race.”
“We come together as a human race,” she said, “and our mission aboard the International Space Station to develop this technology and this research for the benefit of all of humanity is really what brings us together. “
Note: The video in the media player above is from a press conference held by NASA and the space agencies of Japan and Russia on August 4 on the SpaceX mission to take a crew of four to the Station international space, scheduled for September. NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann will be the flight commander.
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