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Black History Month: Guion Bluford


Guion Stewart “Guy” Bluford, Jr. (born November 22, 1942), is an engineer, retired Colonel from the United States Air Force and a former NASA Astronaut.  He participated in four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992.  In 1983, as a member of the crew of the space shuttle Challenger on mission STS-8, Bluford became the first African American in space, and the second person of African ancestry, after the Cuban cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez.

Bluford was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, graduated from Overbrook High School.  He received a B.S. in aerospace engineering from the Pennsylvania State University in 1964, an M.S. in aerospace engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in 1974, a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering with a minor in laser physics, again from AFIT, in 1978, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Houston–Clear Lake in 1987.  He married Linda Tull in 1964 and had two sons,Guion III and James.

Bluford attended pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, and received his pilot wings in January 1966.  He then went to F-4C combat crew training in Arizona and Florida and was assigned to the 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam.  He flew 144 combat missions, 65 of which were over North Vietnam.

In July 1967, he was assigned to the 3,630th Flying Training Wing, Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, as a T-38A instructor pilot.  He served as a standardization/evaluation officer and as an assistant flight commander.  In early 1971, he attended Squadron Officers School and returned as an executive support officer to the Deputy Commander of Operations and as School Secretary for the Wing.

In August 1972, he entered the Air Force Institute of Technology residency school at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.  Upon graduating in 1974 with his master’s degree, he was assigned to the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, as a staff development engineer.  He served as deputy for advanced concepts for the Aeromechanics Division and as branch chief of the Aerodynamics and Airframe Branch in the Laboratory.  Bluford has written and presented several scientific papers in the area of computational fluid dynamics.  He has logged over 5,200 hours of jet flight time in the T-33, T-37, T-38, F-4C, U-2/TR-1, and F-5A/B, including 1,300 hours as a T-38 instructor pilot. He also has an FAA commercial pilot license.

Bluford became a NASA astronaut in August 1979.  Out of thousands of possible astronaut contestants, only 36 were chosen, and Guion was one of them.  His technical assignments have included working with Space Station operations, the Remote Manipulator System (RMS), Spacelab systems 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.

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.

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