November 9, 2002

First native american in space


The question, “Where do astronauts come from,” is often asked. At least one is from the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma.

Born in 1958 in Wetumka, Oklahoma, John Herrington is a member of the Chickasaw tribe. His father taught him to fly an airplane when he was four years old.

John Herrington is the first tribally registered Native American astronaut. He has logged over 3,000 flight hours in over 30 different types of aircraft.


As a child, he played in a cardboard box and pretended it was a space ship. John and his brother dreamed of visiting outer space. John will see this childhood dream fulfilled.

Growing up wasn’t easy for John Herrington. By the time he was a senior in high school, Herrington had moved 14 times throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Texas. At different schools all the time, John never got to know his teachers.

John Herrington’s mother and father wanted him to go to college. Neither of them had a chance to go. But without knowing what he wanted to study, John flunked out after two semesters. 

He loved rock climbing and moved back to the mountains of Colorado. He worked a number of jobs, but one day a friend asked him to work on a survey team. When roads were being built through the mountains, he was asked to climb on steep rock faces. With one hand he held onto the rock and in the other he held a prism which measured angles with light. 

The surveyors used the measurements to calculate, with math, the distances and angles for their project. John Herrington had never liked math in high school, but in the real world he was good at it and enjoyed solving actual problems. His friend, who was a civil engineer, encouraged him to go back to college. John did. This time he worked hard and got a degree in applied math from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 1983. 

John now wanted to be a pilot, so he joined the navy and got a masters degree in aeronautical engineering in 1995. At age 27, John had flown 25 different planes. One day he safely landed a plane full of people during a heavy snow storm. When the passengers thanked him, he said his legs were shaking. 

Today, John Herrington has logged over 3,000 flight hours and has flown 30 kinds of aircraft. 

While in the Navy John Herrington distinguished himself with several honors including the Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation, Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon, National Defense Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbons (3), and various other service awards.

 Now as a NASA astronaut, John works with a team of scientists and engineers from all over the world. His primary job is to get space shuttles ready for launches and landings. But, on November 11, 2002, John Herrington will be doing another job. He will be on the 16th Shuttle flight to visit the International Space Station. 

The Space Shuttle Endeavour will continue the outward expansion of the orbital outpost by delivering the P1 (Port-One) Truss. Also, Endeavour will deliver the Expedition Six crew to the Station and return the Expedition Five crew to Earth. The Space Shuttle launch is scheduled between midnight and 3 a.m. Monday, November 11, 2002. 

A special ceremony to honor astronaut John Herrington and the crew of STS-113 will be held on Sunday, Nov. 10 at 9:00 p.m. EST at the Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex-Rocket Garden, Kennedy Space Center, FL. The event schedule follows:

9:00 p.m. Pre – launch Native American Ceremony at Rocket Garden

* Master of Ceremonies: Danny Key, Administrator, The Chickasaw Nation

 * Mandaree Native American Drum Group: Mandan/Hidatsa Tribe 

* Drums Begin to Call the People

9:15 p.m. Presentation of Colors by Seminole Native American Veterans

* “Star Spangled Banner:” sung by Radmilla Cody, 2001 Miss Navajo Nation

 * Flute solo by Jerry Elliott, Osage/Cherokee, Aerospace Technologist,
Space Shuttle Program Office, NASA Johnson Space Center

 * Honor Dance: Chickasaw Dance Troupe

9:25 p.m. Dedication by Lee Frazier, Chickasaw Tribal Elder

* Prayer: Crystal Underwood, Chickasaw Princess; Tamela Alexander,
Chickasaw Jr. Princess; Julie Underwood, Little Miss Chickasaw

 * Song: “Up Where We Belong” sung by Buffy Sainte-Marie

9:55 p.m. Launch Reception at Debus Center (next to Rocket Garden)

10:30 p.m. Mission Briefing

11:30 p.m. Board Buses to Banana Creek Viewing Stands


NASA Astronaut Profiles: John Herrington
John Herrington Pre-Flight STS-113 Crew Interview
First Indian in Space Began Journey in State [Oklahoma]
STS-113 Mission Objectives, Overview of crew, and more pictures


Early Chickasaw History
1852 Chickasaw Treaty
Official Website of the Chickasaw Nation


Famous Chickasaw
About Raven SiJohn

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