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Shooting for the stars: Rancho alumna joins Boeing Space

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
August 24, 2018

At some point or another, growing up to be an astronaut seems to be the stuff of dreams for children around the world and despite not dreaming about the stars it has come true for one Sonoma County native and Rancho Cotate High School alumna, Nicole A. Mann, who is set to join Boeing Space to help develop and test new spacecraft systems that eventually will carry crews to the International Space Station.

Mann, who now lives in Houston, Texas with her husband Travis and her son, was born in Petaluma, grew up in Penngrove and later attended Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park. Mann graduate from Rancho in 1995 and went on to pursue several degrees in science and mechanical engineering.

In 1999 she earned her B.A. in mechanical engineering from the United States Naval Academy and received her master’s degree in the same field from Stanford University in 2001.

Her career soon took off as she was commissioned to be a second lieutenant with the United States Marine Corps in 1999. After basic training at the Naval Air Station in Florida, she began her flight training in 2001 where she then went on to earn her golden wings as a naval aviator in 2003.

While based out of Beaufort, South Carolina, Mann was deployed twice in combat missions that helped support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During her combat missions Mann deployed with the CVW-1 (Carrier Air Wing One, a United States naval aircraft carrier based in Virginia) aboard the USS Enterprise. 

While completing missions with the Marines Corps, Mann managed to accumulate an impressive record of having over 2,500 hours in flight time in 25 various types of aircraft and 47 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to NASA.gov.

With this already impressive track record of piloting fighter jets, Mann’s career in aviation blossomed even more when she was selected by NASA in 2013 as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class.

According to IFLSCIENCE.com, a woman applying to be an astronaut in the 1960s would immediately receive a rejection letter simply because she was female; however now, for the first time in history, 50 percent of NASA’s latest class of astronauts is comprised of women. 

Before being selected from a pool of over 6,000 candidates, Mann and her colleagues had to go through grueling training.

“Astronaut candidate training included intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, Spacewalks, Russian language training, robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training and water and wilderness survival training,” according to the NASA website.

So far with NASA Mann has led the astronaut corps in the work of developing Orion Spacecraft and space launch and exploration ground systems. On Aug. 3 Mann announced that she would be joining the Boeing Starliner Spacecraft team.

In a tweet the same day Mann said of the announcement, “I couldn’t be more excited to join the @BoeingSpace team! I’m looking forward to strapping into the Starliner and launching into space from the Cape!”

Mann is currently training for the flight test for the new spacecraft, which will be the first ever crewed flight for that specific vehicle.

According to NASA, “Mann and her crewmates will be working closely with Boeing to develop their new spacecraft systems, which will provide roundtrip crew transportation services to the International Space Station and along with SpaceX’s CrewDragon, return the ability to launch humans into space from United States soil.”

In 2016 Mann told “Glamour” magazine in an interview with her colleagues that, “Going into space will be the absolute coolest thing in the world,” and with temperatures at the International Space Station reaching a mind boggling minus 250 degrees F, indeed it will. 

*Watch for next week’s interview with Mann which will be featured in the Aug. 31 edition.