First Native American Woman in Space Goes on Spacewalk

PHOTO DATE: 2/14/2022 .LOCATION: Bldg. 8 Rm. 183. .SUBJECT: Official Crew-5 & Expedition 68 Portrait Elements - Nicole Mann. .PHOTOGRAPHER: Norah Moran

We are proud of Nicole Aunapu Mann, the first Native American NASA astronaut to go for a spacewalk. She, alongside Koichi Wakata of Japan, was assigned to install support brackets and struts for new solar panels that will launch during the upcoming summer. This is part of NASA’s continuing effort to expand the power grid of its space station.

The achievements of Nicole Mann are impressive! She is a test pilot and a Marine colonel who flew to space last fall with SpaceX. Moreover, she belongs to the Wailacki tribe of the Round Valley Indian Tribes located in Northern California. Her first spaceflight took place in October 2022, making her the first Native woman in space. She stayed there for a few months, and on 20th January 2023, performed the spacewalk with Wakata by spending 7 hours working on a platform where solar panels will be installed later this year.

Wakata is assigned as Japan’s spaceflight leader responsible for five missions, and he will be assisting Mann throughout their shuttle era. The pair will leave the space station in one month or so.

Mann is a F/A-18 Hornet pilot and a graduate of Stanford University and the US Naval Academy. She has more than 2,500 flight hours in 25 kinds of planes and 200 carrier landings. Moreover, she has flown 47 combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nicole completed her astronaut training in 2015 and earned a position at Boe-CFT in 2018, the first crew flight test of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. However, she was eventually reassigned to the SpaceX Crew-5, making her the first female chief of a NASA Commercial Crew Program launch.

According to NASA, the installation is part of a program of spacewalks to improve the power channels of the International Space Station with new iROSAs. To date, four iROSAs have been put up so far, and two more are expected to be installed during this spacewalk later on. This was the first spacewalk of 2023 and the 258th spacewalk at the International Space Station. Mann will spend a minimum of six months in space working with the microgravity lab.

Seeing Nicole Mann bagging the title of the first Indigenous female astronaut to do a spacewalk is a proud moment for all Americans, especially the Native American communities. Her historic accomplishment comes 20 years after the first Native American man, John Herrington, traveled into space in 2002. She is also the first woman to serve as commander during a SpaceX mission. Only two women – Pamela Melrory and Eileen Collins- maintained that position on a NASA spacecraft before the facility retired the program in 2011.

Mann reported that she was very excited before the lift-off and that it is “important to celebrate our diversity and properly communicate that specifically to the younger generation.” We completely agree and are happy to see her setting such a profound example for the rest of the Native American community.

She hails from the Wailacki tribe, which is culturally related to four other smaller tribes – the Lassik, Mattole, Nongati, and Mattole. At present day, descendants of these tribes live in and surrounding areas of Mendocino County.



Last Updated on February 1, 2023 by Paul G

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