February 7, 2019
The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. Dr. Bluford is an American aerospace engineer, retired U.S. Air Force officer and fighter pilot, and former NASA astronaut, who was the first African American in space.
Guion Stewart Bluford Jr., Ph.D. (born November 22, 1942), (Col, USAF, Ret.), is an American aerospace engineer, retired U.S. Air Force officer and fighter pilot, and former NASA astronaut, who was the first African American in space (but not the first African American astronaut). Before becoming an astronaut, he was an officer in the U.S. Air Force, where he remained while assigned to NASA, rising to the rank of Colonel. He participated in four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992. In 1983, as a member of the crew of the Orbiter Challenger on the mission STS-8, he became the first African American in space as well as the second person of African ancestry in space, after Cuban cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bluford graduated from Overbrook High School in 1960. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1964, a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in 1974, a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Laser Physics, again from AFIT, in 1978, and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Houston–Clear Lake in 1987. He has also attended the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania.
Bluford was chosen to become a NASA astronaut in August 1979 out of thousands of possible candidates. His technical assignments have included working with Space Station operations, the Remote Manipulator System (RMS), Spacelab systems and experiments, Space Shuttle systems, payload safety issues and verifying flight software in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL) and in the Flight Systems Laboratory (FSL). Bluford was a mission specialist on STS-8, STS-61-A, STS-39, and STS-53.
Bluford's first mission was STS-8, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on August 30, 1983. This was the third flight for the Orbiter Challenger and the first mission with a night launch and night landing. During the mission, the STS-8 crew deployed the Indian National Satellite (INSAT-1B); tested the Canadian-built robotic arm (the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS) or Canadarm) with the Payload Flight Test Article (PFTA); operated the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES) with live cell samples; conducted medical measurements to understand biophysiological effects of space flight; and activated four "Getaway Special" canisters. STS-8 completed 98 orbits of the Earth in 145 hours before landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on September 5, 1983.
Bluford left NASA and retired from the Air Force in July 1993 to take the post of Vice President/General Manager, Engineering Services Division of NYMA, Greenbelt, Maryland. In May 1997, he became Vice President of the Aerospace Sector of Federal Data Corporation and in October, 2000, became the Vice President of Microgravity R&D and Operations for the Northrop Grumman Corporation. He retired from Northrop Grumman in September, 2002 to become the President of Aerospace Technology, an engineering consulting organization in Cleveland, Ohio.
Bluford was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997, and inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010.