John Herrington: The First Native American Astronaut

Astronauts must be great problem-solvers. They have to think quickly and use their math and science training. John Herrington loved to solve problems. He also loved to use math and engineering to fix real-life problems. Herrington decided he wanted to become an astronaut. After lots of training and hard work, John Herrington became the first Native American in space!

Before becoming an astronaut, John Herrington was a pilot in the U.S. Navy. He spent over 3,000 hours flying! After 10 years as a pilot, Herrington went back to school. He got a masters degree in aeronautical engineering. Aeronautical engineers use math and problem-solving skills. They design and build planes, helicopters and more.

In 1996, NASA chose John Herrington to train to be an astronaut. Six years later, Herrington went on his first space mission, called STS-113. He traveled to the International Space Station in the Space Shuttle Endeavor. The International Space Station (ISS) is a large spacecraft that orbits Earth. Astronauts live and do research there. On his journey to the ISS, Herrington carried some important objects. Herrington is a proud member of the Chickasaw Nation. To represent his tribe, he carried eagle feathers, wooden flutes, flags of the Chickasaw Nation, and more.

Herrington also completed three spacewalks while he was at the ISS. On spacewalks, astronauts go outside their spacecraft. They test out new equipment. Astronauts also repair parts of the spacecraft. Herrington is proud to be the first Native American person to walk in space.

John Herrington now speaks about his experiences to people around the U.S. He also works to get students across the country, especially Native American youth, interested in math and science. He believes engineers and scientists can change the world.