Nicole Mann Just Became the First Native American Woman to Go to Space

Mann, a Marine Corps veteran, is heading the SpaceX expedition as mission commander.

SpaceX launched a crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday. Heading the expedition as mission commander is Nicole Mann—the first Native American woman to go to space.

Mann is a member of the Wailacki tribe of the Round Valley Indian Tribes. Before she became an astronaut, she spent several years as a pilot in the Marine Corps. Mann's milestone moment comes 20 years after John Harrington became the first Native American man in space in 2002.

"[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," Mann told the BBC. "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 Crew-5 mission aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Three crew members will accompany Mann on the mission, Josh Cassada, Anna Kikina and Koichi Wakata.

The team is no stranger to historic firsts. In 2000, Wakata flew on STS-92, and became the first Japanese astronaut to participate in the assembly of the ISS. While Kikina, on the other hand, is the sole female cosmonaut on active duty for the Russian space agency Roscosmos. She’s also the first Russian to fly onboard an American spacecraft since the country invaded Ukraine in February.

All four are traveling to the ISS for a six-month mission. Once they arrive, the team plans to conduct more than 200 experiments, including spacewalks, growing tomatoes and 3D-printing human tissue. Quite the spectrum.

Astronauts are typically told they can bring a limited number of personal items with them on their journey. For Mann, this includes her wedding ring and family photos as well as a special reminder of her heritage. The mission commander is packing a special dreamcatcher that her mother gave her when she was a child.

Crew-5's first week at the ISS will be spent getting caught up to speed with Crew-4, who will make their return to Earth on October 12.

Speaking of space, there’s been no shortage of news from the great beyond lately. The Hubble and James Webb telescopes continueto snap stunning shots at a pace that could rival Instagram's most popular influencers.

NASA plans to keep the ISS running until 2031.

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Jeremy Porr is a News Writer at Thrillist. Follow Jeremy on Instagram.