Marine Corps Colonel – and NASA Astronaut – Nicole Mann Awarded “Marine of the Year” by Military Times Foundation

Former Combat Fighter Pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan, Col. Mann has Raised the Bar on Marine Corps Achievements

ARLINGTON, VA., February 22, 2024 – Military Times and the Military Times Foundation have announced that Marine Corps Colonel and NASA astronaut Nicole Mann has been recognized as “Marine of the Year.”  This prestigious award has been presented for the past 23 years and honors one outstanding military member from each branch of service who has demonstrated exemplary military service going beyond the call of duty.  The non-profit organization returns all proceeds from the annual Military Times Service Members of the Year Award event to an array of veterans service organizations which help support the military community and their families.

Mann graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Mechanical Engineering and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in 1999. Mann’s impressive military experience includes serving as a combat fighter and test pilot in F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet aircraft and being deployed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Mann has accrued over 2,700 flight hours, including 47 combat missions and 200 carrier arrested landings.

In 2013 Mann joined NASA, undergoing rigorous astronaut candidate training, eventually mastering space station systems, spacewalks, and more. Mann’s journey into space commenced in October 2022 as commander of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). In 157 days aboard the ISS, her crew conducted a number of experiments to enhance the future of space exploration and life on Earth. Mann’s two spacewalks, totaling just over 14 hours, included critical station upgrades.

While some may consider it unusual for a Marine to go into space – in fact, Marines have a long history in sending their best to NASA.  In 1962, Marine Lieutenant Colonel John Glenn became the first American in orbit with Mercury Atlas-6, and Marines served as astronauts through the Apollo Missions and Space Shuttles.  Nicole Mann herself broke new ground as the first indigenous woman to go to space.  She is registered with the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes.

Mann has earned multiple military honors, academic recognition, and prestigious awards such as the 2023 Distinguished Aerospace Service Award. She is involved in professional organizations such as the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association, balancing her achievements with personal passions such as running, backpacking, cooking, and being a wife and mother.

“Colonel Nicole Mann’s story is a testament to the enduring connection between the military and space exploration,” said Michael Reinstein, Chairman of Military Times Foundation.  “Her groundbreaking journey as the first indigenous woman in space adds another layer of historical significance. We congratulate her on this well-deserved recognition and thank her for her continued service, both to our nation and the advancement of human exploration.”

The annual Military Times Service Members of the Year Award has grown into a much-anticipated event. The awards ceremony has become one of Washington D.C.’s A-list events attended by congressional, military and community leaders.  Since 2019 Military Times and the Military Times Foundation have donated over $20 million in cash and media value to support over 150 military and veteran service organizations, such as Fisher House, Children of Fallen Patriots, TAPS, Objective Zero and others.

Sponsors of the event include Fisher House Foundation, Veteran Benefits Guide, Leonardo DRS, IHG Army Hotels, The Nationals and Delta. For more information on the selection process, history of the award, past winners, and other details, visit:


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Kelly Facer
Military Times Foundation

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