NASA is set to send the first Native American woman into space.
Astronaut and Marine Colonel, Nicole Aunapu Mann, will be part of the crew that arrives at the International Space Station in October.
If all goes as planned, Mann will lead NASA’s Crew-5 mission to the space station on October 3rd.
Mann, who is a member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes in Northern California, will embark on her first spaceflight since becoming an astronaut in 2013.
According to USA Todayshe will serve as an Expedition 68 flight engineer aboard the space station when she arrives.
Her team members on the SpaceX Crew-5 will include American pilot Josh Cassada of NASA, Koichi Wakata of Japanese agency JAXA, and Anna Kikina of Russian space program Roscosmos.
Mann told Reuters: “It has been a long journey, but it’s been so well worth it.”
John Herrington became the first male Native American to fly to space in 2002 when he was on board the Endeavour.
Mann says it’s an important moment for her community to see another American Indigenous person make such an achievement.
She continued: “I feel very proud. It’s important that we celebrate our diversity and really communicate that specifically to the younger generation.
“That’s really, I think, an audience that we don’t get an opportunity to reach out to very often.”
The 45-year-old says she will be taking mementos such as the Native American protective ‘dreamcatcher’ to remind her of home.
Mann is a former fighter pilot who flew on 47 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Two years after being selected as part of NASA Astronaut Group 21 she completed her training and started to work on the development of the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems.
The crew will launch from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center and will swap out with Crew-4 from the International Space Station, which launched in April this year.
The expeditions to the space station are part of a plan to return humans to the moon and continue work on getting to Mars.
Mann added: “What we’re doing in low earth orbit not only trains the astronauts but provides the technical development and operational concepts that we’re going to need to live (with a) sustained human presence on the moon and eventually take us to March.”