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Meet the First Black Astronaut to Travel to Space in 1983 (Since Then 14 Others Have Done the Same!)

Guion Guy Bluford, first Black astronaut to travel to outer space

There were several Black astronauts before him, but Guion "Guy" Bluford was the first to actually travel into space. He was chosen to become a NASA astronaut in August 1979 out of thousands of possible candidates including two other African Americans, Ron McNair and Fred Gregory. He went on to fly four different shuttle missions.
Bluford was born on November 22, 1942, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1964, at the age of 22, he received an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from Pennsylvania State University.

The memorable moment

In 1983, almost 20 years later after receiving his degree, he made history as the first African American to travel to space. He soared into space as part of the STS-8 mission and crew that were aboard the Challenger.

After returning to Earth, the crew listened to audio of their ascent and realized that somebody was laughing during their takeoff. It was Bluford. "I laughed and giggled all the way up. It was such a fun ride," he said later in an interview with NASA.

The activities of the STS-8 crew during the mission included putting the Canadarms robotic arm through its paces, several experiments to see how space affects the human body, and deployment of the Indian National Satellite (INSAT-1B) while in orbit.

The next decade

Over the following years, Bluford flew three more times as a mission specialist on other NASA space missions. One of these missions was STS-61A, also aboard Challenger in late 1985. There, the eight crewmembers were doing the first Spacelab mission, wich was partially run under the German Space Operations Center. After these missions, the Germans invited them to Germany to attend a technology conference highlighting the results of their mission. For Bulford, it was "a proud moment for all of us as we learned the results of some of the experiments that we performed during flight."

In 1991, Bluford was assigned to join the STS-39 mission aboard the Discovery spacecraft. Unfortunately, a herniated disc threatened his status on board just four months before the original launch date. Because of this he would not have been able to complete the training syllabus in time for the flight. However, thanks to the support of his Commander who decided to alter some responsibilities of the crew, Bluford was operated on and still made the flight.

One last time

In December 1992, Bluford flew one last time to space primarily to release a classified payload for the Department of Defense. After returning back to earth, he decided that it was time to end his career as an astronaut. So he accepted a job offer in the private sector, and eventually formed his own consulting firm called The Aerospace Technology Group.

Also, he worked with the Colombia Accident Investigation Board that examined the fatal breakup of space shuttle Colombia in 2003.

As of 2018, fourteen African American astronauts have flown in space, and all of them are grateful to Guion "Guy" Bluford who paved the way for their success.