Today, NASA announced the astronauts who will be on crewed missions with Boeing and SpaceX commercial flights. Nicole Aunapu Mann will be on the Boeing Starliner crew. This is a historic move for NASA and the first time NASA astronauts will fly with commercial flights. The astronauts will be crewing the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Crew Dragon. Here is what you need to know about Nicole Mann and these commercial flights.
1. Nicole Aunapu Mann Will Be on the Crew of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner
NASA announced that Nicole Aunapu Mann will be an astronaut who flies with the Boeing CST-100 Starliner.
The Starliner will take astronauts to the International Space Station by 2019 or 2020, Space.com reported. The craft is similar in shape to the Apollo spacecraft, but with far more advanced electronics. It can carry up to seven astronauts, and is 14.8 feet at its widest. It will fly into space aboard Atlas 5 rockets. NASA’s commercial crew program is largely funding the development of this craft, which may replace the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
This spacecraft is ultimately designed to carry up to seven astronauts to the International Space Station, replacing the Russian Soyuz.
This will also be the first time NASA has launched astronauts from U.S. soil since 2011, when the shuttle was retired.
2. Mann Is an F/A-18 Test Pilot & This Will Be Her First Trip in Space
Mann is a native of California and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines. She’s an F/A-18 test pilot with more than 2,500 hours in more than 25 aircraft. She was selected to be an astronaut in 2013 and this will be her first trip into space, according to NASA.
She has a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and a master of science in mechanical engineering with a specialty in fluid mechanics.
Mann has deployed twice on aircraft carriers to support Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mann has earned numerous awards during her career so far. This includes two Air Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals and unit commendations. She’s also a Trident Scholar and graduated with honors from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.
3. The Test Flight Is Scheduled for 2019
Two NASA astronauts will be on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon flights, and one NASA astronaut will be on a Boeing test flight. Both test flights are scheduled for 2019, according to a new schedule that NASA released on August 2. NASA had originally planned to fly unmanned test flights this month, with crewed test missions in October and November. Those have all been pushed back. SpaceX’s uncrewed flight is scheduled for November 2018, and its crewed flight is scheduled for April 2019. Boeing’s uncrewed flight is scheduled for late 2018/early 2019, and its crewed flight is scheduled for mid-2019.
4. She & Her Husband, Travis, Who Now Have a Son, Were Often Deployed to Different Combat Locations at the Same Time
Sometimes they would both be deployed to active combat situations at the same time but serving in different locations. That was difficult, she told NCAA.
When she decided to pursue astronaut candidacy, she was pregnant with their first child. She and her husband sat down, talked about her life plan, and pursued her dream together.
She said that her husband and son get her full attention when she’s at home, from the moment she walks in the door. (And she and her husband talk a lot during the day too.) But she told Spark Plug Labs that the one thing she wishes she had more of is time. She spends about 45 minutes in the morning with her son and three hours at night before he goes to bed at 8. “I like to leave that time uninterrupted,” she said. She’s also taken her son to work at NASA so he can see what she does.
5. She’s a Talented Soccer Player Who Received A Lot of Support from Her Parents
She’s originally from Penngrove in northern California. Growing up, she played soccer all the way through high school and continued in the Naval Academy. Her older sister, Kirsten, focused on gymnastics, NCAA reported. Mann said her parents, Howard and Victoria Aunapu, were very supportive of her love of soccer. “My parents provided a wonderful support net and drove me all over California for soccer tournaments.”
Her father is a retired auto mechanic and her mother is a former nail salon owner. The taught her to be curious and to take pride in learning.
In 2017, the United Soccer Coaches awarded her with the Jerry Yeagley Award for Exceptional Personal Service. Naval Academy coach Carin Gabarra said about the award: “She was a standout student-athlete at the Naval Academy and I knew early on in coaching her that her future was bright in whatever area she would choose to pursue. Everything that she has accomplished to date is amazing and a true testament to her character, work ethic and drive.”
Mann played soccer while she was in the Academy, including a streak of four winning seasons. Mann started 74 of her 75 appearances and helped guide the Navy to its first postseason in 1996. As a senior, she captained the Navy through an undefeated campaign for the first conference title in 1998.