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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) spoke with NASA Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann, the first Native American woman in space, during a live video call from the International Space Station. Cortez Masto asked Col. Nicole Mann a question about her trailblazing career, which was submitted by students at Pyramid Lake Junior High School in Nevada.
“I’m so excited to be able to ask you this question, because this comes from Pyramid Lake Junior and Senior High School. There’s 28 tribal communities in my state, and let me just tell you, all of the students are just so excited to hear from you,” said Senator Cortez Masto at the beginning of her remarks.
On behalf of students from Reno Sparks Indian Colony and Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe, Cortez Masto asked, “We can only imagine the effort and determination it takes to become an astronaut—what were some obstacles that you faced being the first Native American woman to go to space and how did you overcome them?”
“There were times growing up where academically things were very challenging. At times when I felt like, maybe I’m not smart enough, maybe this class that I decided to take I overstepped what my capabilities are. And you may have a little bit of self-doubt. That’s okay,” NASA Astronaut Col. Nicole Mann responded. “That is part of growing up and that’s part of life. But again it’s about reaching out to people, surrounding yourself with people that can help you, that can give you that encouragement to pick yourself back up and then move forward.”
“These challenges will happen all throughout your life. I challenge you, really, to accept them and embrace them, and learn everything you can from them, and realize that they happen to everybody, even to astronauts on board the International Space Station,” she concluded.
A member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, Col. Mann was selected by NASA in June 2013. Last fall, she launched to the International Space Station as commander of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
A third generation Nevadan, Senator Cortez Masto is the first and only Latina elected to the U.S. Senate, and she’s led efforts to support the 28 tribal communities in Nevada. She has pushed legislation to promote women and underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers. Additionally, Cortez Masto has introduced a bill to make it easier for Tribes in Nevada and across the country to launch critical energy development projects. In 2020, she passed the bipartisan Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act to help address the epidemic of missing, murdered, and trafficked Indigenous women.
In addition, Cortez Masto has repeatedly called on the administration to do more to address the epidemic of violence against Native women and girls, including securing federal funding to protect Native communities, urging the administration to draft a plan to address this issue, and requesting the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate the federal response to this crisis. She has introduced legislation to address federal inefficiencies that hurt Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement recruitment and retention, increase the effectiveness of federal missing persons resources, and give Tribes and states resources to combat the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.