Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann will be first Native American woman to travel to space

Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann, of the Wailacki Round Valley Indian tribes, is set to become the first Native American woman to go to space as part of Nasa’s new crew to the International Space Station (ISS).

Ms Mann will be heading to the ISS with lift off planned for 29 September.

She will be incharge of the Crew-5 mission, joined by Nasa astronaut Josh Cassada, Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata.

The Native American astronaut will be leading all phases of the flight starting from the crew’s launch at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to their re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

“It’s very exciting,” Ms Mann told digital daily Indian Country Today (ICT), that reports on Indigenous communities, on Thursday.

Ms Mann hopes her trip to space will show Native American children that some barriers that used to exist are “starting to get broken down”.

“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,” she said.

The California native, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, was selected by Nasa in June 2013.

She is also a Colonel in the Marine Corps, served as a test pilot and was also deployed twice aboard aircraft carriers for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ms Mann has received two Air Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, according to her Nasa profile page.

At the space agency, she has completed intensive training on ISS Spacewalks, Russian language training, robotics, physiological training, flight training and water and wilderness survival training.

Ms Mann has also made it to Nasa’s shortlist for the first crewed Artemis missions to the Moon.

In preparation for the mission, the crew has undergone training at Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, spacecraft training at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, and also system and payload training, according to the American space agency.