Come this fall, NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann will be the first Native American woman in space.
Mann will join NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission as the Dragon spacecraft commander, where she will be responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry, as well as a flight engineer, NASA announced earlier this month.
Mann, of Petaluma, California, is a member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes in Northern California, according to Indian Country Today.
“It’s very exciting,” she told the outlet on becoming the first Indigenous woman in space. “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.”
John Herrington, an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation, became the first Native American man to fly in space in 2002. He carried the nation’s flag and a traditional flute on his 13-day voyage.
Mann told ICT she plans to bring a dream catcher her mother gave her, as well as her wedding rings and surprise gifts her family is planning for her.
The expedition will be Mann’s first spaceflight since becoming an astronaut in 2013, when she was chosen as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class.
Mann is also a Colonel in the Marine Corps. She has numerous accolades to her name, including two Air Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and the NASA 2015 Stephen D. Thorne Safety Award.
On the mission, Mann will be joined by fellow NASA astronaut Josh Cassada, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina.
The Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon Endurance spacecraft is scheduled to launch no earlier than Sept. 29 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.