Nicole Aunapu Mann

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Nicole Aunapu Mann
Mann in 2022
Nicole Victoria Aunapu

(1977-06-27) June 27, 1977 (age 46)
Other namesDuke
Space career
NASA astronaut
RankColonel, USMC
Time in space
157d 10h 1m
SelectionNASA Group 21 (2013)
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
14h 2m
MissionsSpaceX Crew-5 (Expedition 68)
Mission insignia

Association football career
Position(s) Defender
College career
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1995–1999 Navy Midshipmen 75 (1)

Nicole Victoria "Duke"[1] Aunapu Mann (born June 27, 1977) is an American test pilot and NASA astronaut. She is an F/A-18 Hornet pilot and a graduate of the US Naval Academy, Stanford University, and the US Naval Test Pilot School.[2][3] She has over 2,500 flight hours in 25 types of aircraft and 200 carrier landings, and has flown 47 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mann completed astronaut training in 2015 and was assigned in August 2018 to Boe-CFT, the first crewed test flight of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner,[2][4][5] but subsequently reassigned to the SpaceX Crew-5, becoming the first female commander of a NASA Commercial Crew Program launch.

Her first spaceflight launched in October 2022 and made her the first Native American woman in space.[6][7][8][9][10][11] She stayed in space for months, and on January 20, 2023, she became the first Native American woman to go on a spacewalk, which she went on with Koichi Wakata.[12]

Early life, background, and education[edit]

Nicole Victoria Aunapu Mann was born on June 27, 1977, to Howard and Victoria Aunapu and grew up in Penngrove, California.[3]

Her name Aunapu (a Germanised version of "õunapuu", meaning "apple tree") is Estonian, as her grandfather Helmuth Aunapu was from Tallinn in Estonia, but his family originated from the Estonian island of Hiiumaa. He emigrated in United States in the 1920s and later served as an engineer in the US Armed Forces.[13] Nicole Aunapu visited Estonia for the first time in September 2023.[14]

Of Wailaki heritage, she is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes.[15][2][9][16]

Mann graduated in 1995 from Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park, California.[17] She attended the US Naval Academy and graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. She played for the Navy Midshipmen women's soccer team as a defender, scoring one goal and recording four assists in 75 appearances.[18] After commissioning in the US Marine Corps, she attended graduate school at Stanford University, where she received a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering, specializing in fluid mechanics.[2]

Military career[edit]

After graduate school, Mann attended The Basic School and began flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola. She received her Naval Aviator wings in 2002 and completed training for the F/A-18 Hornet in VFA-106 at Naval Air Station Oceana. Mann joined VMFA-251 at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and deployed twice on the USS Enterprise with CVW-1 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. She was a member of Class 135 at the US Naval Test Pilot School and served as an F/A-18 Test Pilot in VX-23 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. At the time of her selection as an astronaut candidate, she was Joint Mission Planning System Expeditionary Integrated Product Team Lead at PMA-281.[2]

NASA career[edit]

In 2013, Mann was selected as one of the eight members of NASA Astronaut Group 21. She completed her training in 2015 and has since served as a T-38 Talon Safety and Training Officer and was the Assistant to the Chief of Exploration. She worked on development of the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System, and the Exploration Ground Systems.[2][17][19] In August 2018 she was assigned to Boe-CFT, the first crewed test flight of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner.[20] However, in October 2021 Mann was moved to fly on SpaceX's Crew-5 mission as the Spacecraft Commander,[21] scheduled to fly to the International Space Station on September 29, 2022,[7] later rescheduled to October 5.[8] The SpaceX crew-5 landed in the Gulf of Mexico on March 11, 2023, 157 days since they launched.[22] She planned to take a dreamcatcher her mother gave her when she was very young to space.[7] The crew lived on the International Space Station for six months.[8][15][9][10][16][11]

Mann is also in training for the international Artemis program, and is a contender to be the first woman on the Moon as part of the crewed lunar landing currently scheduled for 2025.[7][23]

Personal life[edit]

Mann is married to Travis R. Mann, with whom she has a son. In an interview with National Geographic in December 2020, she said she and her son often sit outside looking at the Moon, and "Hopefully someday, he'll be able to watch Mom fly by and walk on the moon."[23]


As a student at the Naval Academy, Mann played soccer and was an Academic All American. She was a Trident Scholar and a Distinguished Graduate. During her military career, she received two Air Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. She was the Honor Graduate in her US Naval Test Pilot School class. She received the NASA 2015 Stephen D. Thorne Safety Award and the 2017 Jerry Yeagley Award for Exceptional Personal Achievement. Mann is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Tailhook Association, the US Naval Test Pilot School Alumni Association, and the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association, and received the Leroy Grumman "Best Paper" Award at the East Coast Society of Experimental Test Pilots Symposium.[2]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from Melanie Whiting. Nicole A. Mann. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved October 25, 2018. (Official NASA biography).

  1. ^ Speck, Emilee (March 8, 2019). "Meet NASA astronauts who will be first to launch on Boeing, SpaceX spacecraft". WKMG.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Whiting, Melanie (August 4, 2018). "Nicole A. Mann (Col, U.S. Marine Corps) NASA Astronaut". NASA. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Nicole Victoria Aunapu "Duke" Mann". Biographies of U.S. Astronauts. Spacefacts. April 18, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  4. ^ "NASA's Newest Astronauts Complete Training". NASA. July 9, 2015. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  5. ^ "NASA Assigns Crews to First Test Flights, Missions on Commercial Spacecraft". NASA. August 3, 2018. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  6. ^ "NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann will be the first Native American woman to travel to space". Retrieved August 19, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d Stallard, Esme (August 18, 2022). "First Native American woman to travel to space". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved October 6, 2022.
  8. ^ a b c Amos, Jonathan; Stallard, Esme (October 5, 2022). "Nicole Mann: Astronaut becomes first Native American woman in space". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved October 6, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c Bennett-Begaye, Jourdan (August 10, 2022). "First Native woman in space". Indian Country Today. IndiJ Public Media. Retrieved October 6, 2022.
  10. ^ a b Bennett-Begaye, Jourdan (October 5, 2022). "First Indigenous woman launching into space". Indian Country Today. IndiJ Public Media. Retrieved October 6, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Bennett-Begaye, Jourdan (October 5, 2022). "First Indigenous woman launches into space aboard SpaceX". APTN News. APTN. Retrieved October 6, 2022.
  12. ^ "NASA astronaut becomes first Native American woman to conduct spacewalk". KRIS 6 News Corpus Christi. January 23, 2023.
  13. ^ "Esimene naine Kuul? Eesti juurtega Nicole Aunapu Mann teeb kosmoseajalugu" Postimees, January 22, 2020 (in Estonian with an interview in English; "First female on Moon? Nicole Aunapu Mann, who makes space history, has Estonian roots")
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b Bennett-Begaye, Jourdan (August 13, 2022). "Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann will make history as the first Native woman to fly into space". Anchorage Daily News.
  16. ^ a b Bennett-Begaye, Jourdan (August 18, 2022). "Becoming the First Native Woman in Space". North Coast Journal. Retrieved October 6, 2022.
  17. ^ a b Kovner, Guy (June 18, 2013). "Nicole Aunapu Mann, Marine pilot, claims one of eight NASA training slots". Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  18. ^ "2021 Navy Women's Soccer Media Guide" (PDF). Navy Midshipmen. August 31, 2021. p. 47. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  19. ^ National Aeronautics and Space Administration. "2013 Astronaut Class". NASA. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  20. ^ "NASA's Commercial Crew Program Target Test Flight Dates". August 2, 2018. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  21. ^ "NASA reassigns Starliner crew members to SpaceX Crew-5 mission". Space Explored. October 6, 2021. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  22. ^ "NASA's SpaceX Crew-5 Mission". Retrieved March 14, 2023.
  23. ^ a b Drake, Nadia (December 9, 2020). "One of these astronauts may be the first woman on the moon". National Geographic. Archived from the original on February 19, 2021. Retrieved August 19, 2022.

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