Today’s featured astronaut has not yet traveled to space, but she’s no stranger to flight.
Nicole Mann is a relatively new astronaut recruit. She was selected by NASA six years ago, but she began her flying career in 2004.
She served as a combat pilot overseas in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. She has flown over 2,500 flight hours in 25 types of aircraft, has 200-plus carrier landings, and has flown 47 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan
Mann is currently training for her first space mission.
A talented trailblazer
Mann was selected as part of the Commercial Crew and her first spaceflight will be the first crewed test for the Boeing Starliner.
Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s CrewDragon comprise the Commercial Crew Program, an initiative to return launch capabilities to the International Space Station from American soil.
No date has been scheduled for the mission yet. It had a target launch of mid-2019 but has since been delayed.
She didn’t know she would grow up to be an astronaut
Some astronauts knew from a young age what they wanted to be when they grew up. This was not the case for Mann.
“I’m probably one of the few astronauts who didn’t know that’s what I wanted to do as a kid,” Mann said in a 2016 magazine article. She once considered the idea of becoming an astronaut a “far-fetched dream.” However, once Mann joined the Marine Corps and became a pilot, the idea of flying into space suddenly didn’t seem so out of reach.
She’s an out-of-this-world soccer player
Athletics has been an important part of Mann’s life.
She played soccer all four years of college, serving as captain her senior year. As a senior, Mann guided her team undefeated to secure its first conference title. She is a two-time Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and was also a Maryland finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year in 1999.
Mann was honored in Google’s Cloud Academic All-America Hall of Fame Class of 2019. She was one of four female former NCAA athletes who made the cut. Additionally, the Capital Gazette recognized her as, “one of the most decorated women’s soccer players in Patriot League history.”
She said the sport has helped her prepare for her career as an astronaut by teaching her three very important life skills: teamwork, balance and toughness. She says that her experience as an athlete gave her a foundation with which she could learn and grow.
Watch Mann explain how her passion for soccer has helped her reach her life and career goals: