A US astronaut has become the first Native American woman in space following a NASA launch.
Marine Colonel Nicole Mann, 45, is one of four astronauts who blasted off from Florida at midday bound for the International Space Station (ISS).
The SpaceX Falcon rocket put them on a path to catch the orbiting outpost in about 29 hours’ time.
Col Mann told the BBC that she hoped the mission would inspire future generations of Native Americans.
“[I hope it] will inspire young Native American children to follow their dreams and realise that some of those barriers that are there or used to be there are being broken down,” she said.
“Anytime we are able to do something that is a first, or wasn’t done in the past, it’s so important,” she added. “They have these opportunities.”
A registered member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, Col Mann has extensive experience flying a variety of aircraft for the US Marine Corps. She has been awarded six medals for her service and has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tribes have long reported societal discrimination resulting in economic hardship and underfunding of their schools. In 2017, only 27% of Native Americans attained an associate degree or higher compared to 54% of white students, according to the US National Centre for Education Statistics.