When NASA launches its next crew aboard a SpaceX Dragon this fall, mission commander Nicole Aunapu Mann will be the first Native American woman to travel to space. Born in California, she is an enrolled member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes. Mann, who graduated from the US Naval Academy and holds the rank of colonel in the US Marine Corps, was selected by NASA in June 2013 as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class, focusing on space station operations before possible assignments to future missions to the moon, near-Earth asteroids, or Mars. "I think it's important that we communicate this to our community, so that other Native kids, if they thought maybe that this was not a possibility or to realize that some of those barriers that used to be there are really starting to get broken down," she says. NASA astronaut John Herrington of the Chickasaw Nation became the first Native American in space when he flew aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2002.

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