Marine Col. Nicole Aunapu Mann, NASA astronaut, visits Rota Schools

Courtney Pollock
Jun 05, 2024
Marine Col. Nicole Aunapu Mann, NASA astronaut, visits Naval Station Rota

For many, the thought of becoming an astronaut feels like an unattainable dream – literally reaching for the stars. Marine Col. Nicole Aunapu Mann, an astronaut with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), added her wisdom by stating that if you follow your passions and put in the hard work, any dream is possible.

“Ultimately this is your life and you will be the ones who decide what you want from it,” said Mann during her speech during Rota High School graduation ceremony. “As an astronaut, I am lucky to be doing what I consider the best job in the world…but I want to be perfectly clear, this is my idea of the best job in the world.”


Mann elaborated on her evolving journey – Naval Academy, Marine, aviator, test pilot, and astronaut – and how each new experience led her closer to the stars above. Similar to how she blazed her own path, she encouraged the graduates to do the same. While there may be fears and no guarantees, there can be incredible rewards on that path.

“...Sometimes choosing that second path, gathering your courage, and moving forward towards your fear can unlock an incredibly fulfilling life,” she said. “In which your exercise your true passions and your potential.”

By following her initial passions of soccer, math and science, she discovered new passions along the way. During her time at the Naval Academy, her dreams grew to include becoming a Marine and after an opportunity to ride in a jet her senior year, she added becoming a fighter pilot.

“Even if you love it, you will have to work extremely hard but it will be worth it,” she said. “I worked extremely hard as a fighter pilot, I worked hard as an engineer, and in doing so, I opened doors to a future I never considered possible as a young adult and especially as a high school graduate.”

Mann admits that becoming an astronaut was not a childhood dream, but one that grew over time allowing her to meld her diverse passions in a dynamic environment. When she entered space on Oct. 5, 2022 as part of Crew-5, Mann realized her dream of being an astronaut as well as became the first Indigenous woman in space, thus opening doors for those who will follow her.

She described looking back at planet Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) and feeling struck with awe and amazement of the view 250 miles below her. To see the city lights or storms moving through the clouds can make one feel small, but also expands your worldview.

Mann feels that these recent graduates are well-positioned to help bridge understanding because of their experience living in a foreign country, experiencing other cultures, and perspectives.

“I’ve never been so optimistic about our future – and your future,” she said.

As Mann concluded her speech to graduates, leadership, family, friends, and guests.

“As you move on to this next phase in your life, have the courage to not just dream big but go after those dreams,” she said. “And don’t let the fear of failure or handwork get in your way. Remember to define your own successful path in life. Be a good person and be kind. Dare to dream and explore the unknown. Work hard at the things you love in life. I wish you the best of luck on your journey as you set off to discover the rest of your life. Congratulations Class of 2024!”

In addition to providing the keynote speech at the graduation ceremony, Mann gave presentations to the students of Rota Elementary and Rota Middle/High School and read to the preschool classroom of the Child Development Center (CDC). She met with Marines of Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Europe (FASTEUR) and Sailors of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 79 where she learned about their unique missions, toured workspaces, and talked with Marines, Sailors and pilots about her military and NASA experience.

NASA astronaut, visits Naval Station Rota

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