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The United States Announces the First African American Astronaut

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

#57 Science in History

19th April 1982

On this day in 1982, Guion Bluford, Jr. was announced as the first African American astronaut by the U.S*

The following year, Bluford became the first African American astronaut to travel in space, serving as a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Challenger 3 in the eighth Space Shuttle Mission.

Bluford's accomplishments in space exploration and his contributions to engineering and science are numerous. Aside from his four space shuttle missions and over 688 hours in space, Bluford also holds multiple advanced degrees in engineering and served in the United States Air Force for over 28 years, achieving the rank of colonel.

As the first African American astronaut to travel to space, Bluford has inspired many people, particularly young people from under-represented backgrounds, to pursue careers in STEM fields. He is a trailblazer and an important figure in the history of space exploration and American science.

Born on November 22, 1942, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bluford grew up valuing education and hard work. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1964 and a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1974, he joined the United States Air Force in 1965 and served as a pilot during the Vietnam War. Bluford later became a test pilot and was selected for the astronaut program in 1978.

After retiring from the Air Force and NASA, he worked as an executive for several aerospace companies and served on the board of directors for various organizations, receiving numerous awards and honours for his contributions to science, engineering, and space exploration. Today, Bluford remains an inspiration and advocate for STEM education and careers.

* Sally K. Ride was announced as America’s first woman astronaut at the same time.


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