Indigenous | Astronaut

Native American woman takes to the stars in historic NASA space mission

A 45-year-old astronaut, Colonel Nicole Aunapu Mann, has made history as the first Native American woman to  go into space.

A report by NITV says Mann began her five-month mission for NASA at the International Space Station on October 5.

As part of the SpaceX Crew-5 mission, the Wailacki woman was able to take a childhood present from her mother and a strong cultural symbol with her on her journey to space - her dream catcher, which she says has given her strength in challenging times.

Mann heads the mission as its commander.

Mann treasures her traditional woven items, which are embellished with beads and feathers and provide protection.

"It’s the strength to know that I have the support of my family and community back home and that when things are difficult or things are getting hard or I’m getting burned-out or frustrated, that strength is something that I will draw on to continue toward a successful mission.”

Looking down on Mother Earth from 450km above, Mann says she has been overwhelmed by the views.

"It is an incredible scene of colour, of clouds and land, and it’s difficult not to stay in the cupola all day and just see our planet Earth and how beautiful she is, and how delicate and fragile she is against the blackest of black that I’ve ever seen — space — in the background," she says.

Mann is a Marine colonel born in Petaluma, California. Her Wailacki tribe is part of the Round Valley Indian Tribes in Northern California. She was selected as one of eight members to join NASA's 21st astronaut class in June 2013, and has been awarded several medals in her time as a Marine.