The First African American in Space
Guion Bluford knew of his interest in space early on and earned an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering. He trained as a fighter pilot in the US Air Force and went on to earn a doctorate in aerospace engineering with a minor in Laser Physics. In 1978, Bluford was one of 35 (out of 10,000 applicants) in NASA’s first competition to become a space shuttle astronaut! On August 30, 1983, he orbited the Earth on the Challenger and returned to Earth within a week. His next mission took him into the Spacelab with five other astronauts, where they performed over seventy experiments.
He was the first African American and the second person of African descent to go into space, after Cuban cosmonaut Arnoldo Mendez. Before his first trip into space, Guion trained for a year at NASA. His various assignments included working on the Space Station, the Remote Manipulator System, the Spacelab systems, the Space Shuttle system, payload safety, and flight software within the avionics laboratory. He conducted experiments to understand the biophysics of space travel, fluid physics, life sciences, ultraviolet radiation, and navigation on space flights. All total, he has logged over 688 hours in space!