Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. was born on November 22, 1942, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bluford studied aerospace engineering at Pennsylvania State University, graduating in 1964. A distinguished U.S. Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps member in college, he joined the U.S. Air Force and served in the Vietnam War. Flying more than 140 combat missions, he won several medals, including the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm.
After the war, Bluford enrolled at the Air Force Institute of Technology, where he received a master’s degree in aerospace engineering in 1974. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in the same subject in 1978, the same year that he was picked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s space program.
First African American in Space
Guion S. Bluford made history on August 30, 1983, when he became the first African American to experience space travel. Bluford was a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger, which took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at night. This was the space shuttle’s first night launch. He conducted several experiments during the mission, which included 98 Earth orbits in 145 hours and ended on September 5, 1983, when the spacecraft landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California in a night landing, another first for the Challenger.
Bluford later joined crews of three other space missions: He boarded Challenger again in October 1985 for a mission that included 111 Earth orbits in 169 hours and concluded the following month, when Challengerreturned to Edwards Air Force Base. His last two missions, in 1991 and 1992, were both completed aboard the orbiter Discovery.
Bluford retired in 1993, after logging 688 hours in space during his career. He was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997.
Since leaving NASA and the U.S. Air Force, Guion S. Bluford has worked primarily in the private sector. Over the past several years, he has worked in the aerospace division of several companies, including the Federal Data Corporation and Northrop Grumman. He currently serves as president of the Aerospace Technology Group.