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Guion S. Bluford, Jr.

bluford_largeDr. Guion S. Bluford, Jr., became the first African American to travel in space in 1983, as a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger. He later participated in three other missions. His career began as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, flying 144 combat missions during the Vietnam War, before becoming a NASA astronaut in 1979.

Bluford studied aerospace engineering at Pennsylvania State University, graduating in 1964. After serving in Vietnam, 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 PhD in the same subject in 1978, the same year that he was picked for the NASA space program.

Bluford made history on August 30, 1983, when he took off on the space shuttle Challenger and became the first African American to experience space travel. Bluford later joined the crews of three other space missions. He flew on a Spacelab flight as payload commander in 1985, a Department of Defense Strategic Defense Initiative Office flight in 1991, and a classified Department of Defense flight in 1992.

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. 

Bluford served a total of 29 years in the U.S. Air Force, as a tactical fighter pilot in Vietnam, instructor pilot, staff development engineer, Branch Chief of the Aerodynamics and Airframe Branch of the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory, and NASA astronaut.

Since leaving NASA and the U.S. Air Force, 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, an aerospace technology and business consulting organization specializing in aviation and space-related technology development, analysis, and marketing-related activities.