Guion S. Bluford – first African American to travel into space as a mission specialist on the Challenger space shuttle in 1983

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Guion S. Bluford

Guion S. Bluford became the first African American to travel into space as a mission specialist on the Challenger space shuttle in 1983.


Guion S. Bluford, a distinguished Vietnamese aviation pilot born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1942, was a NASA member in the early 1970’s. In 1983, as a mission specialist on the Challenger Space Shuttle, he became the first African American to travel into space. By his retirement in 1993, the company finished another 3 NASA missions, compiling a total of 688 hours of space.

Early Life and Career

Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. was born in Pennsylvania on 22 November 1942. Bluford, the son of a mechanical engineer and a professor of special education, was born to an academically successful family. He studied as a member of the U.S. at Pennsylvania State University. ROTC program and a diploma in aero-technology from the Air Force in 1964.

Bluford flew 144 fighting missions in the Vietnam War following his pilot training at the Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. For his service he earned several medals, including the Gallantry Cross in Vietnam with Palm.

After the war, Bluford registered at the Air Force Technology Institute, where he obtained both a M.Sc. and a PhD in aeronautical engineering. During that moment he also joined the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio as an employee engineer growth and branch head for the Air Force’s Flight Dynamics Laboratory.

First African American in Space

Guion S. Bluford

Guion S. Bluford was one of 35 candidates to joining the new space shuttle team in January 1978, of about 10,000 applications for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Programme. In August 1979, he became an official NASA astronaut.

Bluford became the first African American to experience space travel on August 30, 1983. Bluford was a mission STS 8 expert on the Challenger space shuttle, which took off for its first night launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Bluford and the crew operated a robot arm constructed in Canada and performed several biophysiological experiments during a period of 98 Earth orbits in 145 hours. The mission ended on 5 September 1983, when the spacecraft landed in a evening landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Bluford produced its second space journey as mission specialist STS 61-A onboard Challenger on October 30, 1985 two years later. To date, it was one of Nazis ‘ biggest crews for the German Aerospace Research Institution (DFVLR)’s first dedicated Spacelab mission. Challenger landed at the Edwards Air Force Base on November 6, 1985, after finishing 111 Earth orbits in 169 hours.

Bluford returned to the school in 1987 to obtain a master’s degree in company administration from the University of Houston, Clear Lake after the tragic Challenger explosion in January 1986. Nevertheless, he was committed to helping NASA get back on track. Although he almost retired because of a herniated disk, he was back on the Discovery orbiter for the STS-39 mission. The crew carried out tests for the U.S. after taking off on April 28, 1991. The Defense Department completed 134 orbits on 6 May 1991 in 199 hours prior to its landing.

On 2 December 1992, Bluford produced one of the five members of the STS-53 crew on board Discovery, during a final journey into space. In 175 hours the crew carried a classified payload in the Defense Ministry and safely returned on December 9, 1992. 115 orbits were registered. The distinguished astronaut withdrew from both the NASA and the Air Force in 1993 after collecting a total of 688 hours in space.

Post-NASA and Personal

As Vice president / General Manager of its Engineering Services department, in 1993 Guion S. Bluford joined NYMA Inc. Since then, he has been a leading contributor to the Federal Data Corporation, the Group Northrop Grumman and Aerospace Technologies.

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In 1997, Bluford was brought to the International Space Hall of Fame and in 2010 the American Hall of Fame Astronaut. He has two kids, Guion III and James, married since 1964 to Linda’s spouse.

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