Nicole Mann becomes first Indigenous woman in space

The breakthrough is just one of the many milestones she has planned, including walking on the Moon
Nicole Mann in training this past June. (SpaceX)

On Wednesday, October 5, astronaut Nicole Mann took command of a SpaceX Crew Dragon and launched herself into space.

And history.

The former US Naval fighter pilot became the first Indigenous woman in space. The next days, she and her three crewmates—Josh Cassada, Koichi Wakata, and Anna Kikina—docked with the International Space Station (ISS).

As a new member of Expedition 68 (the name for ISS crews), she will live on the space station for the next six months.

Mann is a registered member of the Wailacki tribe of the Round Valley Reservation in California. She addressed the significance of her achievement in a statement ahead of the launch.

"I am very proud to represent Native Americans and my heritage," she said. "I think it’s important to celebrate our diversity and also realize how important it is when we collaborate and unite, the incredible accomplishments that we can have."

And to be sure, Mann's life has been full of incredible accomplishments. With many more perhaps still yet to come.

Pilot to astronaut

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Lift off! Mann and her crewmates blasting into space. (Getty Embed)

Mann's career is pretty stunning. First a member of the Marine Corps, she graduated from flight school in 2002, and went on to become a pilot in the US Navy. She flew in 47 combat missions.

She also flew over 2,500 hours in 25 different aircraft as a test pilot—a person who tested out new experimental aircraft. Talk about high flying awesomeness!

After mastering those skies—and becoming a colonel (a high ranking officer)—there was only one place to go: space!

She joined the astronaut program in 2013 and has worked steadily toward her goal of exploring beyond the planet. That's nine years of dedication!

Next stop: the Moon?

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The astronauts heading toward their big launch on Wednesday: (left to right) Anna Kikina, Josh Cassada, Nicole Mann, and Koichi Wakata. (Getty Embed)

Getting to the ISS is a major milestone for Mann. As flight commander of Crew-5, she was, according to NASA, "responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry." On board the ISS, she is serving as flight engineer.

Even though the ISS has been in orbit 23 years, only around 250 people have been on it. Mann is one of a very select few.

But she has even bigger plans.

She is also a member of the Artemis program, the future NASA missions that will send humans back to the Moon. With her deep experience, there is talk that she is a top candidate for a truly amazing task.

She may end up being the first woman to ever walk on the Moon in 2025!

For now though, as only the second Indigenous person in space (behind John Herrington in 2002), Nicole Mann is doing what she has always done.

Breaking new ground, one big step at a time.

Listen to her talk about herself and her career in the video below.

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