NASA and SpaceX to send first Native American woman to orbit | CNN

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The first Native American woman to travel to Earth orbit will fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule this week. The astronaut, Nicole Aunapu Mann of NASA, will serve as mission commander.

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The role of the former US Marine Corps pilot can be considered as the quarterback of the crew.

Mann’s historic journey — and his first trip to space since joining NASA’s astronaut corps in 2013 — is set to begin Wednesday at 12 p.m. ET, when Mann and his three crew mates Will ride in his spacecraft atop a 230-foot-tall (70-metre-high) SpaceX rocket set to take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They will travel to the International Space Station for a five-month stay, joining a long list of astronauts to serve as full-time staff at the orbiting laboratory, which has hosted humans for nearly 22 years.

On his journey, Mann will carry some souvenirs: his wedding rings, a surprise gift for his family, and a dream catcher that his mother gave him.

“It will be a special part of my childhood and my community and my family,” Mann told reporters during a news conference on Saturday.

Her teammates will also represent a wide contingent of cultural backgrounds. She will fly with fellow NASA astronaut Josh Cassada, who is from Minnesota; Koichi Wakata of the Space Agency of Japan, known as JAXA or the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; and Anna Kikina, a Roscosmos astronaut who joined the mission as part of a US-Russian ride-sharing agreement.

“I’m very proud to represent Native Americans and my heritage,” Mann said. “I think it’s important to celebrate our diversity and also to recognize that when we collaborate and unite, the incredible achievements we can have.”

Mann grew up in Northern California and is a registered member of the Velaki tribe Round Valley Reservationincluding many indigenous tribes who were forced same post-colonial reservation In the mid 1800s.

“A lot of my extended family still lives in that area,” Mann said. Indian country today in August. “We actually got together for a family reunion a few weeks ago. So it’s really important, I think, for us to continue to build those bonds.”

A colonel in the Marine Corps, Mann began a military career in 1999 as a second lieutenant, according to NASA. Website, Two years later, she began flight training and served on two deployments, supporting combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to NASA. He then earned a position as a test pilot, flying the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet aircraft.

Mann said that she realized later in life that she wanted to be an astronaut – and that such a role was possible.

“I was in my mid-20s,” he told reporters in August. “I realized that being an astronaut was not only a potential dream, but actually something that is quite attainable. I think as a young girl, I just didn’t realize that it was an opportunity.” And there’s a possibility.”

NASA astronaut Nicole A Mann speaks during a news conference at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct.

After being selected to NASA’s astronaut corps in 2013, Mann waited years to be assigned a mission. And after landing his role in Crew-5, Mann spent 18 months in intense training, including practicing underwater spacewalks And studying Russian to communicate better with their astronaut counterparts.

Read more: The Large Numbers That Make the Artemis I Mission a Monumental Achievement

Mann’s mission, called Crew-5, will mark the sixth astronaut launch that SpaceX has undertaken in partnership with NASA from 2020 as part of a broader effort to outsource manned spaceflight and other ISS activities to the private sector. done in.

In his role as commander, Mann will be responsible for ensuring that the spacecraft is on track from the time it docks with the ISS and again when it returns home with the four Crew-5 astronauts next year. Is. Never before has a woman held the role of commander on a SpaceX mission, although a couple women Served in that position during the Space Shuttle program, which NASA retired in 2011.

In the years following the formation of NASA in the mid-20th century, the astronauts were all white men—even during the final days of the space agency’s famed Apollo program. This only changed when Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983, and was followed soon after by Gionn Bluford, the first black man in space.

Read more: Meet the space pioneers of color who empowered others to dream

Since then, NASA has worked to make its astronaut corps more diverse. The space agency’s new, cornerstone human spaceflight program, called Artemis, aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon.

The Artemis program hasn’t even started yet, as NASA is still working to get its Mega Moon rocket off the ground. But Mann was chosen as one of 18 astronauts to be assigned to the program’s first moon landing mission.

diverse group Artemis astronauts are traveling to the ISS, where they conduct science experiments and maintenance of the aging space station, as well as prepare for a possible trip to deep space later this decade.

“What we’re going to do in low-Earth orbit is a step toward achieving those goals of exploration in deep space,” Mann coined the term “low-Earth orbit” to refer to that region of space. where the ISS orbits. , “We’re going to get a ton of experience flying in low-Earth orbit, and either of us may be assigned to an Artemis mission in the future. And hopefully we’ll walk to the moon together one day.” ”

On Saturday, Mann also commented on the importance of having astronauts with a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds.

“We hope it will inspire young children around the world who come from different backgrounds,” she said. “In fact, I hope it inspires adults to follow your dreams as well and realize that the boundaries we may have had in the past are starting to break down.”

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