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Guion "Guy" Bluford: First African American In Space

Guion Guy Bluford, Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 22, 1942. His mother Lolita was a special education teacher and his father, Guion Sr. was a mechanical engineer. The Blufords encouraged all four of their sons to work hard and set their goals high. 

Guion attended Overbrook Senior High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hes been described as shy in his youth.

While there, a school counselor encouraged him to learn a trade, since he was not college material. Unlike other young African-American men of his time who were given similar advice, Guy ignored it and forged his own path. He graduated in 1960, and went on to excel in college.

He received a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering from the Pennsylvania State University in 1964. He enrolled in ROTC and attended flight school. He earn his wings in 1966. Assigned to the 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, Guion Bluford flew 144 combat missions, 65 over North Vietnam. After his service, Guy spent five years as a flight instructor at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

Returning to school, Guion Bluford earned a master of science degree with distinction in aerospace engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1974, followed by a doctor of philosophy in aerospace engineering with a minor in laser physics from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1978.

That year, he learned he was the 35 astronaut candidates selected from a field of more 10,000 applicants. He entered NASAs training program and became an astronaut in August, 1979. He was in the same astronaut class as Ron McNair, the African-American astronaut who died in the Challenger explosion and Fred Gregory, who went on to become a NASA Deputy Administrator.

Guys first mission was STS-8 aboard the space shuttle Challenger, which launched from Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 30, 1983. This was Challenger’s third flight but the first mission with a night launch and night landing. It was also the eighth flight of any space shuttle,

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