Guion S. Bluford, Jr.


Born: 22 November 1942
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Best known as: The first African-American to fly in space
Astronaut Guion Bluford became the first African-American in space when he flew on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. Bluford was a former Air Force fighter pilot who flew 144 combat missions in the Vietnam War in 1966-67. After his wartime service he received an master's degree (1974) and a PhD (1978) from the Air Force Institute of Technology before joining the NASA astronaut corps in 1979. Bluford was a mission specialist on four different shuttle flights: STS-8 (1983, shuttle Challenger), STS-61-A (1985, shuttle Challenger), STS-39 (1991, shuttle Discovery) and STS-53 (1992, shuttle Discovery). According to his Air Force biography, he spent a total of 688 hours in space over his four missions. He retired from NASA and the Air Force with the rank of Colonel in 1993 and became a businessman. He was made a member of the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997.
Extra credit: Bluford's nickname is Guy... Bluford earned a bachelor's degree from Penn State in 1964 before entering the Air Force... Bluford's 1985 mission on STS-61-A was the last successful flight of the Challenger. The shuttle exploded on its next flight in 1986, killing teacher Christa McAuliffe and six others... Many sources note that the first black man in space was Arnaldo Mendez, a Cuban who flew in the Russian flight Soyuz 38 in 1980... Bluford is married to the former Linda Tull. They have two children: Guion III (b. 1964) and James (b. 1965)... The first African-American woman in space was Mae Jemison (in 1992).

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