GUION BLUFORD (1942-) is NASA’s first black astronaut in space.
Bluford was born in West Philadelphia on November 22, 1942. Bluford loved finding out how things were put together, but what amazed him was how things flew.
After graduating from Overbrook Senior High School, Bluford received a BS in aerospace engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1964. He then entered active duty with the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a pilot during the Vietnam War and flew 144 combat missions.
Upon returning home, Bluford earned a master of science degree with distinction in aerospace engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1974; a doctor of philosophy in aerospace engineering with a minor in laser physics from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1978.
Bluford was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1978. He first went into space in August 1983, three years after Cuban cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, flew into space aboard the Soviet Union’s Soyuz 38 mission. Bluford’s 1983 mission aboard the space shuttle Challenger included the deployment of an Indian communications satellite and the first launch and landing of a space shuttle at night.
In November 1985, Bluford again flew aboard the space shuttle Challenger on a mission dedicated to German scientific experiments. Challenger carried Spacelab, a modular system that fits in the space shuttle’s huge cargo bay and provides extra room for astronauts to carry out scientific experiments. In 1987, Bluford earned his MBA.
Bluford’s third spaceflight was aboard the space shuttle Discovery in April 1991. He supervised experiments for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the launch of a small DOD satellite.
Bluford flew aboard Discovery again on his last space shuttle mission in December 1992 on another DOD mission. This mission included studies of how muscle, blood and bone are affected by the microgravity of space and a test of how small space debris can be tracked from the earth. With the completion of this flight, Bluford logged 688 hours in space.
Bluford left NASA after his fourth mission in July 1993 to become a vice president at NYMA, Inc., an aerospace consulting firm in Maryland. He and his wife, Linda, have two sons.
Concrete Loop features ‘Black History Spotlights’ each week honoring black people who have played pivotal roles in history. submissions are welcome.