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Nicole Aunapu Mann Becomes First Native American Woman in Space: I Hope It 'Will Inspire'

Nicole Aunapu Mann Becomes First Native American Woman in Space: I Hope It 'Will Inspire'

Nicole Aunapu Mann is making her-story!

The astronaut, 45, officially became the first Native American woman to fly into space on Wednesday.

Taking off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and bound for the International Space Station (ISS), Mann was joined on the SpaceX Falcon rocket by fellow NASA astronaut Josh Cassada, Japan's Koichi Wakata and Russia's Anna Kikina.

With the group of four orbiting in a Crew Dragon capsule, their mission is known as Crew-5 and is SpaceX's sixth crewed flight under contract from NASA, USA Today reported. It is also the eighth overall when including private spaceflights.

The foursome is now scheduled to arrive at the ISS after about 29 hours of flight time on Thursday evening, per The Guardian. They will then begin a mission lasting 150 days aboard the space-based laboratory.

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NASA astronaut Nicole Mann waves as she leaves ahead of the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Crew5 Dragon, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on October 5, 2022. - The launch, which is expected to happen today, will begin a six-month expedition on the International Space Station for the crew aboard.
NASA astronaut Nicole Mann waves as she leaves ahead of the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Crew5 Dragon, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on October 5, 2022. - The launch, which is expected to happen today, will begin a six-month expedition on the International Space Station for the crew aboard.

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty

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Mann is a member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes in California, USA Today reported. According to NASA, she earned a mechanical engineering degree from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1999 and a master's degree from Stanford University in 2001.

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 5: (from L) Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina, NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann, and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata join hands as they walk out of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building before riding to pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center for the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Crew 5 mission on October 5, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States. The crew will launch on the Crew Dragon spacecraft for a six-month expedition to the International Space Station.
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 5: (from L) Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina, NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann, and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata join hands as they walk out of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building before riding to pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center for the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Crew 5 mission on October 5, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States. The crew will launch on the Crew Dragon spacecraft for a six-month expedition to the International Space Station.

Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty

She is a Colonel in the Marine Corps who worked as a test pilot for the F/A - 18 Hornet and Super Hornet aircraft and was deployed on aircraft carriers twice during American combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the space agency.

Mann was first selected as an astronaut candidate in June 2013, NASA said.

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Official astronaut portrait of Nicole Aunapu Mann
Official astronaut portrait of Nicole Aunapu Mann

NASA

Speaking with the BBC ahead of launch, Mann said that she hopes the mission she is a part of will inspire future generations of Native Americans.

"[I hope it] will inspire young Native American children to follow their dreams and realize that some of those barriers that are there or used to be there are being broken down," she said. "Anytime we are able to do something that is a first, or wasn't done in the past, it's so important. They have these opportunities."

The only other Native American individual to have traveled to space is John Herrington, who flew on a shuttle mission to the ISS in 2002, according to Reuters.