First Native American woman in space awed by Mother Earth

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) – The first Native American woman in space said Wednesday she is overwhelmed by the beauty and delicacy of Mother Earth and is channeling “positive energy” as her five-month mission begins.

NASA astronaut Nicole Mann said from the International Space Station that she has received many prayers and blessings from her family and the tribal community. She is a member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes Wailacki in Northern California.

Mann showed the dream catcher he brought with him, a childhood gift from his mother who has always been dear to him. The small traditional webbed circle with feathers is used to offer protection and she said she gave her strength in difficult times. Years before joining NASA in 2013, she flew combat in Iraq for the Marines.

“It is the strength of knowing that I have the support of my family and community at home and that when things are difficult or things are getting difficult or I am feeling exhausted or frustrated, that strength is something that I will draw on to continue towards a mission successful, ”Mann told The Associated Press, which collected questions from tribal members and media outlets across the country.

Mann said he always listened to his mother’s advice on the importance of positive energy, especially on launch day.

“Maybe it’s hard for some people to understand because it’s not really tangible,” he said. “But that positive energy is so important and you can control that energy and it helps to control your attitude.”

Mann, 45, a marine colonel and test pilot born in Petaluma, California, said it’s important to recognize that there are all kinds of people aboard the space station. It currently hosts three Americans, three Russians and a Japanese astronaut.

“What it does is simply highlight our diversity and how amazing it is when we come together as a human species, the wonderful things we can do and accomplish,” he said.

While fascinated by the stars and space as a child, Mann said she doesn’t understand who the astronauts became or what they did. “Unfortunately, in my mind at the time, it wasn’t in the realm of possibility,” she said.

This changed later in his career. Now, she is taking in the sweeping vistas of Earth from 260 miles (420 kilometers) and up and hoping to see the constellations as she encourages young people to follow their dreams.

As for the description of the Earth from space, “the emotions are absolutely overwhelming,” he said. “It’s an incredible scene of colors, clouds and earth, and it’s hard not to stay in the dome (lookout) all day and just see our planet Earth and how beautiful it is, and how delicate and fragile it is against the most black of black that I have never seen – space – in the background.

Mann went into orbit with SpaceX on October 5. He will stay up there until March. She and her husband, a retired Navy fighter pilot, have a 10-year-old son at home in Houston.

The first Native American in space, in 2002, was retired astronaut John Herrington of the Chickasaw Nation.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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