Today we will visit with Guion Bluford, the first Black American to fly into low Earth orbit. Dr. Bluford earned B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Aerospace Engineering. Along with Ron McNair and Fred Gregory, Dr. Bluford was one of three Black Americans accepted into NASA’ Astronaut Training Program in 1978. Tomorrow, we will give equal time to Dr. Mae Jemison.
Here is an interview (available here) with Dr. Bluford:
Here is a brief biography (available here):
Guion Bluford is a former NASA astronaut and a retired colonel of the United States Air Force. He became the first African-American to go up in space, when he participated as a crew member of Space Shuttle Challenger on NASA’s STS-8 mission in 1983.
Guion was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 22, 1942. He was one of the four kids born to Guion Sr., a mechanical engineer and Lolita, a special education teacher. He graduated from Overbrook Senior High School in Philadelphia, in 1960, and obtained a Bachelors degree in Aerospace Engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1964. Later, the same year, he married Linda Tull. The couple has two sons; Guion III and James.
After passing out from Pennsylvania State University, Bluford got himself enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps and attended flight school at Williams Air Force Base. In 1966, he earned his pilot wings, and went through the F-4C combat crew training in Arizona and Florida. After completion of his training, he was assigned to the 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron at the Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. He participated in 144 combat missions in his career, 65 of which were in North Vietnam.
He worked as a T-38 A instructor pilot at the Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas for 5 years before returning back to pursue his education. He joined the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Here he completed his Masters in Aerospace Engineering in 1974 and Doctor of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering with minor in laser physics in 1978.
In 1978, Guion Bluford was shortlisted as one of the 35 astronauts in NASA Group 8. He entered the Astronaut Training Program and became an astronaut in August 1979. He participated as a mission specialist in four missions, commissioned by NASA between 1983 and 1993. By the end of his fourth mission, Guion had completed 688 hours in space.
Bluford’s first mission was STS-8 aboard Space Shuttle Challenger. It was Challenger’s first mission with night launching and night landing. The shuttle was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on August 30, 1983. Challenger landed at the Edwards Air Base in California on September 5, 1983, after completing 98 orbits of the Earth in 145 hours.
His second mission was STS-61-A, which was again launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 30, 1985. This was Bluford’s second mission aboard Challenger. It was a German D-1 Space Lab mission with 8 crew members; the largest crew to go in space. It completed 111 orbits of the Earth in 169 hours and landed at the Edwards Air Base on November 6, 1985. In 1987, he earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
STS-39 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery was Bluford’s third NASA mission. It was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on April 28, 1991. It completed 134 orbits of the Earth in 199 hours before returning back to Kennedy Space Center on May 6, 1991.
Bluford embarked on his fourth mission, STS-53, on December 2, 1992 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. He was a part of the 5 member crew which was deployed to perform various Military-Man-in-Space and NASA experiments. After completing 115 orbits of the Earth and spending 175 hours in space, Discovery landed at the Edwards Air Base on December 9, 1992.
In 1993, Bluford opted for retirement from NASA to join the Engineering Services Division of NYMA, Inc., Maryland, as the general manager. After that he joined the Aerospace Sector of Federal Data Corporation in 1997 and then Northrop Grumman Corporation in the year 2000, working at the level of vice-president in both organizations. Finally in 2002, he became president of an engineering consulting organization Aerospace Technology Group in Cleveland.
Other than being the first black astronaut, Guion Bluford achieved many other laurels in his life; the most prominent being in the year 1997, when he was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame. Molefi Kete Asante, a contemporary American scholar, listed Bluford in his list of 100 Greatest African Americans in 2002.
Thanks for your attention.