Pioneer Nicole Anapu Mann will lead her team to the space station

NASA’s Crew-5 crew commander Nicole Anapu Mann participates in training in the Crew Dragon shuttle cockpit at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. (© SpaceX/NASA)

Astronaut Nicole Anapu Mann departs for an Earth-orbiting flight from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Oct. 5 and will be cheered on by Native Americans from Northern California’s Round Valley* tribe.

In fact, the astronauts are the pride of the Wailaki Nation, one of the most populous tribes in the Round Valley Confederation and of which Nicole Anapu Mann is a member. He will not only be the first Native American to go into space, but also the first to lead a NASA mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

“Nicole has accomplished a feat that few Americans dare to dream of, let alone those who grew up on reservations,” Round Valley Tribal Affairs Administrator Linda Sacks said in an email. “She opened a door and set a precedent for Native American girls across America, especially in Round Valley (…) by helping them take their visions, dreams and goals out of this world, proving that there are no limits.”

Preparations for this mission began more than 10 years ago with Nicole Anapu Mann, now 45 years old. In 2013, NASA selected him and 7 others from among 6,000 applicants to join a new team of astronauts for missions to the Moon, Mars and other places in the solar system.

Nicole Anapu Mann will lead a three-person crew to the International Space Station aboard a shuttle built by SpaceX, a company based in Hawthorne, California. During its 6-month mission, the team must conduct research and outings outside the ISS. Purpose: To train for future trips to the Moon, and long-duration missions, not only to the Moon but also to Mars.

“I’m delighted,” he told Reuters. It was a long trip, but it was definitely worth it. »

The astronaut lives in Houston with her son and husband Travis Mann, but the rest of her family (and her fan club) is based in Northern California. When he was young, his mother gave him an object made of a wooden hoop and a net, which he treasured and which he would take with him when he flew into space.

“I have this dreamcatcher that my mom gave me a long time ago,” he told NPR Radio. “And it’s a memory of my family, where I come from (…), something that I will keep with me in my crew quarters when I’m on the space station. »

Nicole Anapu Mann in a blue space suit, arms outstretched and thumbs up, and the American flag in the background (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Nicole Anapu gestures during an event at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in 2018. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Nicole Anapu Mann received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1999 and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University in 2001. During the summer of his third year at the Naval Academy, he seized a golden opportunity: test an F-18 Hornet fighter plane. The experience solidified his desire to become a fighter pilot for the United States Marine Corps. And today, Nicole Anapu Mann has more than 2,500 flight hours to her credit, at the controls of 25 types of aircraft. He flew 47 combat missions and 200 carrier landings.

But it wasn’t until 2011 that the idea of ​​flying into space crossed his mind. That year, NASA put out a call for new astronauts, and Nicole Anapu Mann realized she had all the qualifications. Her husband encouraged her to apply.

“I was interested in math and science and I thought it would be really cool to go into space one day,” he told National Native News Radio. But he did not seriously consider becoming an astronaut because he did not see any astronauts with the same background or backgrounds as him.

Nicole Anapu Mann dreams of being one of the first women on the moon. And she hopes her example will inspire more women and Native Americans to pursue a career as an astronaut.

Although the most recent statistics date from more than 10 years ago, they show that the portion of NASA personnel from Native Americans or Alaska* was negligible during that time. Nicole Anapu Mann hopes that today’s Indigenous youth “follow what’s happening and see the incredible possibilities before them.” He said, many obstacles are falling.

The launch of the shuttle, piloted by Nicole Anapu Mann, will be broadcast live on NASA Channel on October 5.

*In English

Leave a Comment