September 18, 1980: Cosmonaut Arnold Tamayo becomes first African sent on a mission in space.
Born Jan. 29, 1942, Cuban pilot and cosmonaut, Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, was the first person of African descent, and the first Cuban to fly in space. Tamayo Méndez joined the Cuban air force as a pilot after the revolution of 1959. After completing cosmonaut training, Tamayo Méndez traveled into space aboard Soyuz 38 with Soviet cosmonaut Yury Romanenko on September 18, 1980.
During the eight-day mission, Soyuz 38 docked with the Salyut 6 space station, and Tamayo Méndez and Romanenko conducted several scientific experiments and research studies. Upon his return, Méndez was awarded the first title of Hero of the Republic of Cuba by Fidel Castro and was also bestowed with the Order of Lenin and the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest decoration in the Soviet Union.
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