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AP connects news membership, Indigenous media with first Native American woman in space

In this image from video made available by NASA, Astronaut Nicole Mann shows her dreamcatcher during an interview with The Associated Press from the International Space Staion, in an Oct.19, 2022 image from NASA video. The first Native American woman in space said Wednesday that she’s overwhelmed by the beauty and delicacy of Mother Earth, and is channeling “positive energy” as her five-month mission gets underway. (NASA via AP)

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On Oct. 19, the first Native American woman in space conducted her first interview from space with AP writer Marcia Dunn. The format was unique: All the questions came from AP members and Indigenous news outlets — an AP first aimed at helping local media connect with major news sources.

Dunn had been presented with a challenge: Would it be possible for the AP to connect Indigenous and other local newsrooms with Marine Col. Nicole Mann — and do it while she’s in space? The longtime aerospace journalist did not hesitate: She came up with a format, employed her deep sourcing at NASA and quickly set up what became a first-of-its-kind, beautifully executed and widely viewed event.

NASA gave Dunn a full 20 minutes for Mann’s orbital interview — a rare opportunity. Streamed live from the International Space Station,Dunn was able to ask questions from more than a dozen news outlets,almost all the questions coming from Indigenous journalists. Time.com posted its own story off the interview,noting: “Since her launch on Oct. 5,the media have been clamoring to talk to her and this week she gave her first interview,to The Associated Press — and spoke of the power she draws from her tribal community on Earth.”

KYBU Round Valley Community Radio,which serves Mann’s tribe in Northern California,gathered questions from local high school students interested in Mann’s accomplishments,her view of the constellations and her sense of time in space. The station promoted the interview and played it live on air. Other outlets that participated in the interview and wrote stories include ICT — formerly Indian Country Today,the Osage News, Native News Online and National Native News.

One listener tweeted: “I am listening to KYBU streaming the conversation with Nicole at the space station. They read her the questions from Round Valley students and she answered them. This is one of the coolest things ever. Thanks KYBU Radio!”

Native American students watched the interview in schools,and Dunn’s story appeared on front pages from Olympia,Washington,to Galveston,Texas.

The interview was also carried live on AP Direct and AP Live Choice,and the online video edit was a top download for the week,while NASA’s YouTube video of the interview has received more than 8,700 views.

For a groundbreaking collaboration with AP members and customers,and for proving that AP’s sourcing extends beyond the surly bonds of Earth, Dunn is AP’s Best Of The Week — Second Winner.

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