Guion Bluford, Jr.

Guion Bluford's official NASA photo. He wears an orange suit and holds his helmet. The American flag is on the left side (to the viewer) of the photo and Bluford is smiling.

Guion Steward Bluford, Jr. was the first African American to travel in space! Bluford was born on November 22, 1942 in Philadelphia. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1964. After graduation, when he was 22 years old, he joined the Air Force (and married Linda Tull!). Bluford continued his studies after his time in the Air Force and earned a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology in 1974. 

In the Air Force, Bluford logged over 5,200 hours of jet flight time and 1,300 hours as a T-38 instructor pilot. He also has an FAA commercial pilot license. Bluford began astronaut training in 1978. His rigorous training lasted one year before he could officially be called an astronaut! His early work included working with Space Station operations, Spacelab systems, Space Shuttle systems, among others.

Bluford’s first mission was STS-9, which launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on August 30, 1983. During the mission, Bluford did a lot of testing including the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System and Payload Flight Test Article.

Guion Bluford’s last mission was STS-53 in 1992. The crew deployed the Department of Defense payload DOD-1 and then completed several Military-Man-in-Space and NASA experiments. After completing 115 orbits of the Earth and 175 hours in space, the shuttle landed one week later.

Bluford logged over 688 hours in space! He was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997, the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010, and the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2019. 

Bluford has a Cleveland connection! In September 2002, he became the President of Aerospace Technology, an engineering consulting organization in Cleveland. Bluford lives locally.

Photo of Guion Bluford in space. He is suspended in zero gravity wearing a blue NASA uniform with a name tag.
Did You Know?
  • Many astronauts had engineering degrees or served in the Air Force like Guion Bluford did.
  • In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Bluford on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
  • Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy West, a middle/high school in Baltimore, Maryland, is named in his honor (along with Charles Drew and Mae Jemison).
  • There have been fourteen (14) other African American astronauts at NASA.