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Guion "Guy" Bluford

First African American Astronaut to Launch into Space 


Image Courtesy NASA


Guion Bluford is the first African-American astronaut to fly into space. Bluford’s father was an engineer, and his mother was a teacher.  His parents taught him to work hard and to strive for his goals.  Bluford was a Boy Scout and earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.  Since he was young, Bluford had an interest in airplanes and spacecraft, so he decided to become an aerospace engineer.  Bluford graduated college, as a distinguished Air Force ROTC graduate, with an aerospace engineering degree at Pennsylvania State University in 1964.  As an officer, Bluford served as a decorated air force pilot during the Vietnam War.  Bluford pursued more education.  He earned a masters degree in 1974 and a doctorate degree in 1978 from the Air Force Institute of Technology in aerospace engineering.  The next year in 1979, Bluford became a NASA astronaut.  While in the NASA program, Bluford remained an officer in the US Air Force and rose to the rank of colonel.


As an astronaut, Bluford achieved his dreams and traveled into space on four different space missions between 1983 and 1992.  Bluford made history when he became the first African American astronaut to launch into space, during the time he flew aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.  After his first mission, Bluford remained with NASA and explained he wanted to “make a contribution” to NASA.  Through his four missions in outer space, Bluford completed hundreds of orbits around Earth and logged more than 688 hours in space.


Bluford has received numerous awards. Bluford was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame, the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame, and the National Aviation Hall of Fame.  


Bluford stated that space “fascinated” him and indicated that he loved the view out the window of the space shuttle and the feeling of zero gravity as he walked on the ceilings and walls.  


Bluford achieved his dream.  Bluford has spoken to children about his experiences and emphasized the importance of studying science and math.  Bluford encourages students to do what they enjoy in life and to chase their dreams.










Video Courtesy NASA


  • Biographical Data:  Guion S. Bluford, Jr. - NASA

  • Guion S. Bluford Oral History - NASA

  • “Penn state alum, NASA astronaut Guion Bluford reflects on his role as the first African American in space”, The Daily Collegian (Pennsylvania State University), March 2020

  • “Bluford”, Pennsylvania Center for the Book (Pennsylvania State University), 2019

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