PETALUMA, Calif. (KRON) — NASA launched the SpaceX Crew-5 mission Wednesday sending four astronauts into space destined for the International Space Station.
The mission’s commander aboard the Dragon Endurance spacecraft is a Petaluma native, NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann.
Mann was born in Petaluma, graduated from Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park in 1995, and is the first indigenous woman from NASA to go to space.
NASA wrote Wednesday morning, “The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft roared off of Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida! Nicole Aunapu Mann, Josh Cassada, Koichi Wakata, and Anna Kikina have successfully begun their approximate 29-hour journey to the International Space Station on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission.”
As commander, Mann is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry. With Cassada as its pilot, Crew-5 will dock at the space station on Thursday at approximately 1:57 p.m. PST.
Mann is also 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. Mann earned a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering with a specialty in Fluid Mechanics from Stanford University in 2001.
After all of her incredible accomplishments and life adventures, Wednesday was Mann’s first chance to fly into space.
“Missions like Crew-5 are proof we are living through a golden era of commercial space exploration. It’s a new era powered by the spirit of partnership, fueled by scientific ingenuity, and inspired by the quest for new discoveries,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “During their stay aboard the International Space Station, Crew-5 will conduct more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations, including studies on printing human organs in space and better understanding heart disease. While our eyes are focused upward on the heavens, let us never forget these missions will also better life here on Earth.”
During Dragon’s flight, SpaceX will monitor a series of automatic spacecraft maneuvers from its mission control center in Hawthorne, Calif.
Crew-5 will spend several months aboard the space station conducting new scientific research in areas, such as cardiovascular health, bioprinting, and fluid behavior in microgravity to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and to benefit life on Earth.
“The International Space Station continues to serve a critical role in helping NASA and our partners understand and maximize the unique attributes of the microgravity environment,” said Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate.