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Meet Guion Bluford Jr., the first African American to go to space

August 30, 2018 at 02:00 pm | History

Francis Akhalbey

Francis Akhalbey | Staff Writer

August 30, 2018 at 02:00 pm | History

Guion Bluford on STS-8 in 1983 -- Photo Credit: NASA

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 22, 1942, Guion ‘Guy’ Bluford Jr. is an aerospace engineer, a former NASA astronaut as well as a retired United States Air Force officer and fighter pilot.

Bluford broke barriers during his time at NASA by becoming the first African American in space. Keep in mind that at a certain point in time in his career, he simultaneously worked at NASA and served in the United States Air Force subsequently rising to the rank of Colonel.

Bluford was a very brilliant student during his academic days and his record is very enviable. After graduating from Overbrook High School in Philadelphia in 1960, he pursued a course in Aerospace Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1964.

In 1974, he further on received a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT). A Doctor of Philosophy degree in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Laser Physics from AFIT also followed in 1978 and in 1987; he received a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Houston–Clear Lake.

In August 1979, Bluford was selected to be a NASA astronaut after becoming the preferred choice out of over a thousand candidates. Between 1983 and 1992, he successfully partook in four space shuttle flights.

STS-8, which was the eighth NASA Space Shuttle mission and the third flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger was Bluford’s first mission as an astronaut. It was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on August 30, 1983. This incredible feat made him the first African American to go space.

STS-8 Crew photo — Photo Credit: NASA

Subsequent missions he partook in were STS-61-A, (NASA’s 22nd Space Shuttle program and the first to carry eight crew members), STS-39 (NASA’s twelfth mission of the Space Shuttle Discovery) and finally STS-53 (a Space Shuttle Discovery mission in support of the United States Department of Defense). These missions clocked him over 688 hours in space.

Some of NASA’s first African-American astronauts. From left: Ronald McNair, Guy Bluford, and Frederick D. Gregory. — Photo Credit: NASA

In 1993 after a very successful career, Bluford left NASA and retired from the Air Force. He was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997 and inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010.

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