Marine Colonel Nicole Aunapu Mann will become the first Native American woman in space when NASA's next crew arrives at the International Space Station in October this year.
Nicole is set to launch from Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Monday 3 October onboard SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft, accompanied by Japan's Koichi Wakata, Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina and fellow NASA astronaut Josh Cassada.
"I feel very proud," Nicole says. "It's important that we celebrate our diversity and really communicate that specifically to the younger generation."
When setting off to space, Nicole will take a few personal items, including a dreamcatcher, which is used as a protective charm in the Native American community.
The first Native American man in space was John Herrington in 2002.
NASA’s mission in space
To secure her place in space, Nicole undertook a range of intense programmes implemented by NASA, including spacewalks, instruction in ISS systems, robotics, Russian language training, and physiological training.
“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 Mars,” Nicole says.
Who is Marine Colonel Nicole Aunapu Mann?
Nicole holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering. She is also served as a test pilot in the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet.
Before Nicole was recruited by NASA, she flew U.S. combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. She says: “It has been a long journey, but it's been so well worth it.”
As the first Native American woman to visit space, Nicole sees the opportunity as a way to excite her community. She explains: “That's really, I think, an audience that we don't get an opportunity to reach out to very often.”
Throughout her career, Nicole has been awarded a number of accolades, including two Air Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and various unit commendations.