NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann will be the first Native American woman in space when she launches to the International Space Station next month. She will also be the first woman commander of the NASA Commercial Crew Program, and will lead Space-X Crew 5 which is expected to launch from September 29 onwards.
“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.
Mann is enrolled in Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes in Northern California, and she has been with NASA since 2013. She 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 will be joined on Crew-5 by NASA’s Josh Cassada and as well as Koichi Wakata from the Japanese Space Agency and Roscomos Anna Kikina. Of the four people, only Wakata has been to space before. Each has a limited amount of personal items they can bring up, as it is pricey sending stuff to space.
They have 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) worth of personal items that they can take up – and Mann has already planned what she will be bringing.
“I have some special gifts for my family, which I can't say because they're a surprise. Definitely taking my wedding rings, and I have this dream catcher that my mother gave me when I was very young,” Mann told Indian Country Today. “It's kind of always stayed with me throughout my time.”
Mann is also training for the Artemis Program, hoping to be among the people that will walk on the surface of the Moon over the next decade.
[h/t: Indian Country Today]