On Oct. 5, 2022, Nicole Mann became the first Native American woman to launch into space. Born in Petaluma, Calif., Mann is a member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes. Her astronaut career began at the United States Naval Academy where she studied mechanical engineering and went on to earn a master’s degree from Stanford University. In 2013, Mann was selected for NASA’s 21st astronaut class, where she underwent extensive training in International Space Station Systems, robotics, spacewalks and much more. Last fall, Mann launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in the Dragon Endurance Spacecraft as SpaceX’s first woman commander. This endeavor took her and her crew to the International Space Station, where, on Jan. 20, 2023, Mann became the first Indigenous woman to venture out on a spacewalk to prep the ISS for more solar panels.
Mann hopes her extraordinary accomplishments will encourage today’s young scientists to follow their scientific ambitions with perseverance and tenacity.
“These young women, maybe Natives, maybe people from different backgrounds that realize that they have these opportunities and [that] potentially these barriers that used to be there are starting to be broken down,” she said in an interview with NPR. “And so hopefully that will inspire that younger generation.”