Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann answers questions from Native Students, Indigenous media

Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann was interviewed while in space Oct. 19. (Photo/NASA)

Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann was interviewed while in space Oct. 19. (Photo/NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER — On Oct. 19, Nicole Aunapu Mann (Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes), the first Indigenous woman to be launched into space, answered questions from Native American media outlets and Indigenous school children in a live-streamed in-flight interview from the International Space Station.

Mann launched into space earlier this month on Oct. 5. She serves as the mission commander on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 space mission on the Dragon spacecraft named Endurance.

The interview was conducted by Associated Press Aerospace writer Marcia Dunn from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

In answering questions solicited from various Native media outlets and tribal schools, Mann spoke of viewing Earth from space, her career path, and drawing strength from the blessings of her family. At one point, she brought out a dream catcher she carries with her and explained its significance as it gently floated around her in zero gravity.

“I brought a dreamcatcher from my mother that helped me through tough times as a child,” Mann said. “When things are difficult or getting hard, I draw on that strength to continue toward a successful mission.”

When asked if anything from her Wailacki of the Round Valley culture inspired her career, Mann answered, “The biggest thing that inspired me and helped me in my career as an astronaut is the importance of family and community. It’s really important to stay connected and rely on people to help get you through difficult times in life. My parents and my family were a huge foundation for me in preparing me as a young child to persevere through challenges, stay focused in school and giving me confidence and inspiring me to achieve my dreams.”

The interview concluded with Mann answering a question from Native News Online about her message to students at Rounds Valley Indian Tribes Head Start — located on Mann’s reservation — who watched the Oct. 5 launch on a big screen in their classroom.

“I would like to tell them that I appreciate all of the good messages they are sending me,” Mann said. “I appreciate all of their good energy. Please know that I carry all of your hopes and your dreams with me to the International Space Station and I hope for you that you will be able to achieve your dreams, and I pass along the energy for you to be able to persevere in your childhood to do everything you aspire to do in life.”

The article is courtesy of Native News Online.

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