Colonel Guion Stewart Bluford Jr., Ph.D.

Colonel Guion Stewart Bluford Jr., Ph.D.

The First African American in space. The Official portrait of astronaut Guion S. Bluford. Bluford, a member of Astronaut Class 8 and the United States Air Force (USAF), poses in his launch and entry suit (LES) holding a launch and entry helmet (LEH) with the United States flag as a backdrop. Image ID: S92-48766

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File: Guion Bluford.jpg

Created: 23 October 1992

NASA career

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. 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 Mendez.

Bluford was chosen to become a NSAS 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 system 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.

Colonel 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); operated the Canadian-built RMS 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 then served on the crew of STS-61-A, the German D-1 Spacelab mission, which launched from Kennedy Space Center on October 30, 1985. This mission was the first to carry eight crew members, the largest crew to fly in space and included three European payload specialists. This was the first dedicated Spacelab mission under the direction of the German Aerospace Research Establishment (DFVLR) and the first U.S. mission in which payload control was transferred to a foreign country (German Space Operations Center, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany) During the mission, the Global Low Orbiting Message Relay Satellite (GLOMR) was deployed from a “Getaway Special” (GAS) container, and 76 experiments were performed in Spacelab in such fields as fluid physics, materials processing, life sciences, and navigation. After completing 111 orbits of the Earth in 169 hours, Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base on November 6, 1985.

Bluford also served on the crew of STS-39, which launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 28, 1991, aboard the Orbiter Discovery. The crew gathered aurora, Earth-limb, celestial, and Shuttle environment data with the AFP-675 payload. This payload consisted of the Cryogenic Infrared Radiance Instrumentation for Shuttle (CIRRIS-1A) experiment, Far Ultraviolet Camera experiment (FAR UV), the Uniformly Redundant Array (URA), the Quadrupole Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer (QINMS), and the Horizon Ultraviolet Program (HUP) experiment. The crew also deployed and retrieved the SPAS-II which carried the Infrared Background Signature Survey (IBSS) experiment. The crew also operated the Space Test Payload-1 (STP-1) and deployed a classified payload from the Multi-Purpose Experiment Canister (MPEC). After completing 134 orbits of the Earth and 199 hours in space, Discovery landed at the Kennedy Space Center on May 6, 1991.

Bluford’s last mission was STS-53, which launched from Kennedy Space Center on December 2, 1992. The crew of five deployed the classified Department of Defense payload DOD-1 and then performed several Military-Man-in-Space and NASA experiments. After completing 115 orbits of the Earth in 175 hours, Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base on December 9, 1992.

With the completion of his fourth flight, Bluford has logged over 688 hours in space.

Bluford, an Eagle Scout, was designated as the emissary to return the Challenger flag to Boy Scout Troop 514 of Monument Colorado in December 1986. On December 18 of that year, he presented the flag to the troop in a special ceremony at Falcon Air Force Base.

Post-NASA career

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.

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Bluford on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans. In 2006, Bluford was recognized as a distinguished alumnus of Penn State by being selected as the Grand Marshal for his alma mater’s Homecoming celebration.

Colonel Bluford on Challenger’s middeck, Mission Specialist (MS) Guion Bluford, restrained by harness and wearing blood pressure cuff on his left arm, exercises on the treadmill. Forward lockers with data recording units and checklist notebooks are to the left of Bluford.

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File: Bluford on Treadmill – GPN-2000-001078.jpg

Created: 5 September 1983


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File: Astronaut candidates Ronald McNair, Guion Bluford, and Frederick Gregory.jpg

Created: 16 May 1978

Some of NASA’s first African-American astronauts including Dr. Ronald McNair, Guy Bluford and Fred Gregory from the class of 1978 selection of astronauts.

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File: S79-36529classof78.jpg

Uploaded: 3 March 2018

April 29, 1983 JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, HOUSTON, TEXAS STS-8 INSIGNIA — The night launch of Challenger heading toward its third earth-orbital mission is featured in the official insignia for STS-8. The eighth flight of the United States Space Transportation System is represented by eight stars of the constellation Aquila, “The Eagle,” Astronauts Richard H. Truly, commander; Daniel C. Brandenstein, pilot; Dale A. Gardner, Guion S. Bluford, and William E. Thornton — all mission specialists–have their surnames on the border of the insignia.

By NASA or National Aeronautics and Space Administration – (rotated, repaired from scan problem cutting off part of border, color balanced, cropped, shrunk to about 25% and bestowed an alpha channel)Description, Public Domain, source: (

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source: (public domain) This image contains official insignia which may be subject to legal restrictions.

File: STS-8 patch.png

Created: 17 June 1983

STS-61A Mission Insignia This insignia was chosen by the eight members of the STS-61A/D1 Spacelab mission to represent the record-sized Space Shuttle crew. Crewmembers surnames surround the colorful patch scene depicting Challenger carrying a long science module and an international crew from Europe and the United States.

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source: (public domain) This image contains official insignia which may be subject to legal restrictions.

File: STS-61-a-patch.png

Created: 1 October 1985

STS-39 Mission Insignia The arrowhead shape of the STS-39 crew patch represents a skyward aim to learn more about our planet’s atmosphere and space environment in support of the Department of Defense. Our national symbol is represented by the star constellation Aguila (the eagle) as its brightest star, Altair, lifts a protective canopy above Earth. The Space Shuttle encircles the spectrum which represents x-ray, ultraviolet, visible and infrared electromagnetic radiation to be measured by a variety of scientific instruments.

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source: ( source: (public domain) This image contains official insignia which may be subject to legal restrictions.

File: Sts-39-patch.png

Created: 21 February 1991

Emblem of Nasa’s STS-53 mission Designed by the crewmembers, the STS-53 insignia shows the Space Shuttle Discovery rising to new achievements as it trails the symbol of the Astronaut Office against a backdrop of the American flag. The five stars and three stripes also serve to symbolize the mission designation (STS-53) and America’s continuing commitment to world leadership in space. The pentagonal shape of the patch represents the Department of Defense (DOD) and its support of the Space Shuttle Program. The band delineating the flag from space includes the four colors of the military services of the crewmembers. The names of the flight crewmembers are located along the border of the patch. They are Commander David M. Walker, Pilot Robert D. Cabana, Mission Specialist (MS) Guion S. Bluford, MS James S. Voss, and MS Michael R. U. Clifford. Each crewmember contributed to the design of the insignia.

By NASA, this vectorization was made by Mysid in Inkscape. –, Public Domain, source: (

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source: (Public Domain) This image contains official insignia which may be subject to legal restrictions.

File: STS-53 patch.svg

Created: 1 July 1992

Sir William Jackson NASA Honors & Awards

(see: Sir William DeWhite Jackson LinkedIn bio) 

Honor Title:

NASA Accomplishment Award

Honor Date:

April 1981

Honor Issuer:

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Honor Description:

I received a NASA Accomplishment Award for covering the first U.S. Space Shuttle Landing at the Edwards Air Force Base in Lancaster, California for the NBC News Department. NBC had 3,500 technical engineers working for them across the country. NASA would only allow national news organizations, including NBC, to send their TOP SEVEN Technical Engineers to cover this world special news event. I was one of the seven.

Sir William DeWhite Jackson, II

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