Marine Colonel Nicole Mann has made history as the first Native American woman in space following NASA’s launch on Wednesday. She and four other astronauts blasted off from Florida in the SpaceX Falcon rocket, and are headed to the International Space Station (ISS). Mann belongs to the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes.
“[I hope it] will inspire young Native American children to follow their dreams and realise that some of those barriers that are there or used to be there are being broken down,” she told BBC.
“Anytime we are able to do something that is a first, or wasn’t done in the past, it’s so important,” BBC quoted her. “They have these opportunities.”
Mann is the recipient of six medals for her service. She has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. After completing her astronaut training in 2015, she has now finally made her debut in space. The team includes another American, John Cassada, Koichi Wakta from Japan and Anna Kikina from Russia. Kikina is making history herself by being the only woman in the cosmonaut corps of the Russian space agency. Together, the team will spend six months at the ISS and undertake 250 scientific investigations. Some of these include 3D printing human cells, growing tomatoes and conducting space walks.
Along with the few personal items that the astronauts will carry, Mann is also taking with her a memento of her roots and culture.
“I also have a special dreamcatcher that my mother gave me which will be another little piece of my family to carry with me,” she told BBC.
Moreover, Samantha Cristoforetti is among the astronauts who are returning to Earth. She is Europe’s first female commander of the International Space Station. For women aspiring to have a career in space, this serves as fresh encouragement.