Dr. Guion “Guy” Bluford, Jr. (Colonel, USAF, Ret) became the first African American to fly in space in 1983. He is the first African American awarded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Gold Astronaut Pin and United States Air Force’s Command Pilot Astronaut Wings. Bluford was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997 and the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010. Bluford logged over 5,200 hours in high performance jet aircraft and flew 688 hours in space on four space shuttle missions.
Bluford was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1942. He earned his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from the Pennsylvania (Penn) State University in 1964. In 1974, he earned a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering with distinction from the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT). He completed his Doctorate of Philosophy Degree in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in laser physics from AFIT in 1978. After graduating from Penn State, Bluford earned his Air Force pilot wings and then flew 144 combat missions as an F-4C fighter pilot in Vietnam.
From 1967 to 1972, he served as a T-38 instructor pilot at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas training future Air Force and German fighter pilots. Once he earned his graduate degree in 1974, he was assigned to the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory as Deputy Commander for Advanced Concepts for the Aeromechanics Division and then as Branch Chief of the Aerodynamics and Airframe Branch until his selection to the astronaut program in 1978.
In 1983, Bluford flew in space for the first time as a mission specialist aboard STS-8 on the first night launch and landing of the space shuttle. He deployed the Indian National Satellite and operated the continuous flow electrophoresis system. In 1985, Bluford flew as a mission specialist on STS-61A and led the international on-orbit payload team in the training and on-orbit operation of 76 experiments in the German D-1 Spacelab. In 1991, Bluford flew in STS-39, managing the operation of several experiments in support of the Department of Defense Strategic Defense Initiative Office and then flew his final space mission in 1992 on STS-53, a classified space shuttle flight.
In 1993, Bluford retired from the Air Force, leaving NASA to become the Vice President and General Manager of the Engineering Services Division of NYMA, Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio. During his career in private industry his titles included Vice President of the Aerospace Sector of Federal Data Corporation and Vice President of Microgravity Research, Development and Operation of the Northrop Grumman Corporation. Additionally, in 2003, he was the Executive Director of Investigative Activities for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. In 2002, Bluford became the President of the Aerospace Technology Group, an aerospace consulting organization, while continuing to serve on several corporate boards.
His distinguished career includes the following awards and medals: Department of Defense Superior Service, three Meritorious Service Medals, the Air Force’s Legion of Merit, and ten Air Medals; NASA’s Distinguished Service, Exceptional Service and four Space Flight Medals; the State of Pennsylvania’s Distinguished Service Medal and fourteen honorary doctorate degrees.