Penngrove’s Mann shooting for the stars
Naval Academy graduate believes it is vital to reach out to younger generations through science
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By Mira Brody  August 2, 2013 12:00 am

Having once flown amongst the clouds, Nicole Mann, a former resident of Penngrove, has recently been granted the opportunity to fly a bit closer to the stars.

Every four years, NASA selects eight candidates out of thousands of applicants for their two-year astronaut trainee program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

A longtime local of Sonoma County, Mann is an alumnus of both Waldo Rohnert Elementary and Rancho Cotate in 1995. After high school, she graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University and completed test pilot school in Patuxent River, Md. A major in the Marine Corps, she’s flown F/A-18 Hornets in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


Grasping the multitude

“I was so exited to get into the first round,” Mann states, having been selected from more than 6,300 people. “Then I started thinking, ‘Wow, this is really going to happen. I might actually have a shot.’”

Dazed from excitement and currently in the process of moving her and her 17-month-old son, Jackson, down to their new home in Houston, she recalls being pleasantly surprised when the phone call came. After nearly a year and a half of medical workups, reference checks and interviews, she’s still trying to grasp the multitude of feelings associated with becoming an astronaut.

“I’m most exited to join the NASA team,” Mann says. “They are an incredible group of diverse backgrounds…lots of international people. The coolest part is just the idea of exploration and advancing the goal of human kind.”

Mann believes it is vital to continue reaching out to younger generations through science, because as humans we tend to grow through the discovery of both ourselves and the universe around us.

Class begins Aug. 12, and by the end of training everyone is assigned a division within NASA. Mann will be on call for any missions they may need American astronauts for in the future, including the International Space Station or possibly a Mars expedition.


Stability in Houston

“In the military, you are usually moving around every three years or so. We won’t move so much with NASA,” she says of her lifestyle change.

Her husband, Travis, is currently in the Navy and deployed to the Middle East, but will be moving with his family to Texas in October.

“Any mother that chooses to have a career will find that it’s a balancing act between being a parent and your career,” she says of being a busy mother. “I am lucky to have the support of my family and friends, but it’ll definitely be a challenge before Travis gets home.”

The timing of her acceptance to the program, however, was perfect. It allowed her to achieve some of her own childhood dreams while teaching her son that it is important to follow his own and for a family that flies military planes for a living, backpacks, scuba dives, mountain bikes and runs for fun, being an astronaut might not seem so unorthodox.

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