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Guion Bluford First African American Astronaut
Dr. Guion “Guy” Bluford, Jr. (Colonel, USAF, Ret.) was the first African American to fly in space in 1983. He was also the first African American to return to space for a second, third, and fourth time. He was the first African American to be awarded NASA’s coveted Astronaut Pin and the first African American to be awarded the United States Air Force’s Command Pilot Astronaut Wings. He was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997 and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010. He has logged over 5,200 hours in high performance jet aircraft and has flown 688 hours in space on four Space Shuttle missions.
Bluford was born in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1942 and received a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering from the Pennsylvania State University in 1964, a master of science degree in aerospace engineering with distinction from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1974, a doctor of philosophy degree in aerospace engineering with a minor in laser physics from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1978 and a master in business administration from the University of Houston, Clear Lake in 1987.
After graduating from Penn State, Bluford earned his Air Force pilot wings and then flew 144 combat missions in Southeast Asia as an F4C fighter pilot, with 65 missions over North Vietnam. From 1967 to 1972, he served as a T-38 instructor pilot at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, training future Air Force and German fighter pilots.
After graduating from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1974, he was assigned to the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory as Deputy for Advanced Concepts for the Aeromechanics Division and then as Branch Chief of the Aerodynamics and Airframe Branch until his selection to the astronaut program in 1978.
Bluford flew as a mission specialist and flight engineer aboard STS-8, on the first night launch and landing of the Space Shuttle. He assisted the commander and pilot in developing techniques for night time operations. He also deployed the Indian National Satellite and operated the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System.
In 1985, Bluford flew as a mission specialist on STS-61A, and led the international on-orbit payload team in the training and on-orbit operations of 76 experiments in the German D-1 Spacelab.
In 1991, Bluford flew on STS-39, managing the operation of several experiments in support of the DOD Strategic Defense Initiative Office and then flew in 1992 on STS-53, a classified Space Shuttle flight.
In 1993, Bluford resigned from the Air Force and NASA to become the Vice President/General Manager of the Engineering Services Division of NYMA Inc, in Greenbelt Maryland. In 1997, he became Vice President of the Aerospace Sector of Federal Data Corporation and in 2000 he became Vice President of Microgravity R&D and Operations for the Northrop Grumman Corporation.
Bluford has served on numerous boards including the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Board (AIAA), the National Research Council’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, the Aerospace Corporation Board, the Space Foundation Board, and the ENSCO Corporation Board. In 2003, he was the Executive Director of Investigative Activities for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Dr. Bluford is currently the President of the Aerospace Technology Group, in Cleveland, Ohio.
He has been awarded numerous awards including the Department of Defense’s Superior Service, and three Meritorious Service Medals; the Air Force’s Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service, Commendation and ten Air Medals; NASA’s Distinguished Service, Exceptional Service and four Space Flight Medals; the State of Pennsylvania’s Distinguished Service Medal and fourteen honorary doctorate degrees.