John Herrington, Astronaut, Chickasaw (1958- )
John Herrington is a retired U.S. Naval Aviator, engineer and former astronaut. While climbing cliffsides as a surveyor as a young man, a friend and mentor encouraged him to pursue mathematics and engineering. After he graduated from University of Colorado, he pursued a Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate school. In 1996, he was selected by NASA to join the astronaut program. Two years later, he was assigned as a mission specialist for the Endeavor. In 2002, he was part of the 16th shuttle mission on the STS113-Endeavor to the International Space Station, becoming the first enrolled member of a Native American nation/tribe to travel to outer space and to walk in space. To honor his Chickasaw heritage, he carried 6 eagles feathers, a braid of sweetgrass, two arrowheads, a carved flute and the Chickasaw Nation’s flag. Today, the flute and the flag are on display at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. He has noted that even though many of the wonders of the Native world were built by ancestral Indigenous engineers, a very low number of students pursue higher degrees in STEM fields. John is committed to changing this and does this actively through his work with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).