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Astronaut Nicole Mann answers questions from Osage students aboard International Space Station

Mann spoke with the Associated Press from the International Space Station and answered two questions from Daposka Ahnkodapi 5th graders of the Osage Nation’s private elementary school

The Osage language was heard in space.

On Oct. 19, Nicole Aunapu Mann, astronaut and Mission Commander of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5, and the first Indigenous woman to go to space answered two questions from Daposka Ahnkodapi 5th graders, Shane Ventura Cass and Dominic Shackelford while aboard the International Space Station.

As the broadcast began at 11:40 a.m. EST, a voice loud and clear announced, “Station, this is Houston, are you ready for the event?” The video cut to Mann holding a microphone as she was floating in front of a door, surrounded by cables and other machinery. Her feet were curled under a blue bar anchored to the floor, holding her in place. She answered, “Houston, Station, yes, I am ready for the event.”

The event was an interview with Marcia Dunn, Associated Press. Since Mann is the first Indigenous woman in space, she is registered with the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, the AP asked tribal media outlets from across the country to submit two questions to be asked while she was in orbit. The Osage News chose to give that opportunity to the students of Daposka Ahnkodapi, the Osage Nation’s private elementary school.

News staff chose the two questions from Cass and Shackelford out of more than 20 entries from students. Dunn pronounced Daposka Ahnkodapi perfectly.

Dunn: “The Osage News gathered questions from 5th graders from Daposka Ahnkodapi, they want to know two questions: How does someone get to be an astronaut? And, what happens when you shoot a gun in space?”

Mann smiled wide at the second question and began her answer.

“So there’s many different ways to become an astronaut. Personally, I am a Marine and I went the test pilot route, so I flew fighters in the Marine Corp and then I became a test pilot. But that’s just one of many ways to become an astronaut. We have astronauts who are engineers, doctors, scientists. The one thing they all have in common is that they were very passionate about their careers before they became an astronaut. And you see that in all of the astronauts. They follow their dreams and their passions in life, and they were very happy and satisfied in their career. I think that allowed them, allows all of us, to branch out and follow our future dreams.

“As far as shooting a gun in space, I have no idea, that would be very dangerous on board the international space station, but because we are in microgravity, you don’t have the same effects of gravity pulling down. So, even if I threw a ball, normally, if I were to throw a football, I would throw it up and it would be an arc and I would throw it to my friend. Here on the space station, because there’s very, very little gravity, if I was going to throw a football, just straight away (and she pushed her microphone forward to demonstrate and it floated straight). If I threw it straight up, it would go straight up and just bounce off the ceiling so it’s very different.”

Altogether, she answered questions from Indian Country Today, Hawaii News Now, KYBU Round Valley Community Radio, Mvskoke Media, Navajo Times, Native America Calling, Buffalo’s Fire, Cherokee Phoenix, Osage News, an Indigenous journalist with Imprint News, Rudaw Media Network, a tribal councilman from the United Houma Nation, and Native News Online.

Nicole Aunapu Mann, NASA astronaut, Mission Commander of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 and the first Indigenous woman to go to space. Photo credit: NASA

Commander Mann and her crew launched to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 5. The international crew will serve as the agency’s fifth commercial crew rotation mission with SpaceX aboard the orbital laboratory, according to a NASA release.

As Commander, Mann is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry, and will serve as an Expedition 68 flight engineer, according to the release. This will be her first spaceflight since becoming an astronaut in 2013.

During Dragon’s flight, SpaceX will monitor a series of automatic spacecraft maneuvers from its mission control center in Hawthorne, California, and NASA teams will monitor space station operations throughout the flight from the Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, according to the release.

The California native holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Mann is a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and served as a test pilot in the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet. She deployed twice aboard aircraft carriers in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to her NASA bio.

A recording of the live event was posted to NASA’s YouTube channel and viewers can watch and listen Commander Mann answer the questions from Cass and Shackelford at the 14:49 minute mark.

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Shannon Shaw Dutyhttps://osagenews.org
Shannon Shaw Duty is the editor of the Osage News. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a master's degree in Legal Studies, Indigenous Peoples Law from the OU College of Law. She served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) from 2013-2016 and served as a board member and Chairwoman for the Pawhuska Johnson O’Malley Parent Committee from 2017-2020. She is a Chips Quinn Scholar, a former instructor for the Freedom Forum’s Native American Journalism Career Conference and the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute. She is a former reporter for The Santa Fe New Mexican. She is a 2012 recipient of the Native American 40 Under 40 from the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED). In 2014 she helped lead the Osage News to receive the Elias Boudinot Free Press Award, NAJA’s highest honor. An Osage tribal member, she and her family are from the Grayhorse District. She currently resides in Pawhuska, Okla., with her husband and six children.
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