First Indigenous woman launches into space aboard SpaceX

Mann is a mechanical engineer and served as a test pilot in the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet according to NASA.

Nicole Aunapu Mann

Mann, third from left, becomes the first Indigenous woman to launch into space. Photo: Twitter

Caption: NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 astronauts are photographed in front of the agency’s iconic worm logo at Launch Complex 39A during a countdown dress rehearsal on Oct. 2, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Photo courtesy of SpaceX)


NASA Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann, Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, is aboard SpaceX’s Dragon with three other astronauts that lifted off to the International Space Station Wednesday.

Mann becomes the first Indigenous woman to blast off into space.

The astronauts have been in Florida since Oct. 1 for media day and dress rehearsals.

The launch took place just after noon ET from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Mann serves as the mission commander for the Crew-5 mission to the space station, also known as the floating laboratory.

The astronauts joining her as part of Crew 5 are pilot Josh Cassada, JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina, both are mission specialists for the science expedition mission.


According to NASA, “This will be Mann’s first spaceflight since becoming an astronaut in 2013. As mission commander, she will be responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry. She will serve as an Expedition 68 flight engineer aboard the station,” the space agency said.

“She earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the United States Naval Academy and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering with a specialty in fluid mechanics from Stanford University. She is a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and served as a test pilot in the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet.”

Crew 5 will join Crew 4 at the International Space Station. Crew 4 will show the new crew around the space station and then return to Earth in October. Crew 5 will stay at the station for six months to work on hundreds of science experiments.

Mann is also in the running to be the first woman on the moon in 2025. She is the second Indigenous astronaut to space. John Herrington, Chickasaw, was the first Native American in space during his voyage on the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s STS-113 mission in 2002.


Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is editor of ICT and based in its Washington bureau. She is the first woman to be the chief news executive and top editor of the 40-year-old newspaper and website. Bennett-Begaye’s Grey’s Anatomy obsession started while attending the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye - Indian Country Today

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye is a Diné citizen and identifies as Kiyaa’áanii (The Towering House Clan), Mą’ii deeshgiizhinii (The Coyote Pass Clan of Jemez), Naakai dine’é (The Mexican Clan), and Ozei Táchii’nii (The Hopi with Red Running Into the Water Clan). She completed the Newhouse Minorities Fellowship at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York. The fellowship allowed her to obtain a master’s degree in magazine, newspaper and online journalism. After Syracuse, she taught journalism, video production, and theatre at her alma mater, Kirtland Central High School, in New Mexico. She’s written for Native Peoples Magazine, Fan First, MediaShift, The Daily Times, NAJA’s Native Voices News, NPR’s NextGen Radio Project, and Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard.

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