Nicole Mann became the first Native American female astronaut to launch into space on October 5th. (Image Credit: SpaceX)
On October 5th, NASA launched SpaceX’s Dragon Endurance spacecraft, with four crew members aboard, from the Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station. The Crew-5 mission also made history: sending the first Native American woman, Nicole Mann, to space! Mann, a member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, also serves as the first female mission commander for SpaceX. This is the sixth time SpaceX has sent astronauts to the ISS through NASA.
"That was a smooth ride uphill," Mann told mission control while entering space. "You've got three rookies that are pretty happy to be floating in space right now and one veteran astronaut who's pretty happy to be back as well."
Mann’s accomplishment happened just 20 years after John Herrington became the first Native American male to complete a spacewalk. According to NASA, Mann overlooks all the flight phases, starting from launch to re-entry. She’s also the Expedition 68 flight engineer aboard the space station. Mann hopes her presence inspires future astronauts with diverse backgrounds.
From left to right: John Cassada, Anna Kikina, Nicole Mann, and Koichi Wakata. (Image Credit: NASA/Kin Shiftlett)
Three other astronauts joined her for the mission: NASA’s John Cassada (spacecraft’s pilot and Mann’s second-in-command), JAXA’s Koichi Wakata (mission specialist), and Russia’s female cosmonaut Anna Kikina, who’s making her first space flight. After docking with the ISS, the Crew-5 members joined NASA’s Expedition 68 astronauts: Frank Rubio, Jessica Watkins, Kjell Lindgren, and Bob Hines. Samantha Cristoforetti, ESA astronaut, along with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, is also aboard.
The Crew-5 mission involves conducting over 200 experiments on the ISS, such as researching 3D-printing human tissue, fluid behavior in microgravity, and cardiovascular health. NASA aims to use these studies for the Artemis missions to the moon and Mars.
Mann also has other space flights ahead. She plans to fly on Boeing’s Starliner first crewed test mission. However, Starliner underwent many technical glitches and delays. Before NASA boards astronauts on Starliner, it must perform a successful uncrewed test mission to the space station.
Have a story tip? Message me at: http://twitter.com/Cabe_Atwell