By Angela L. Braden
Dr. Guion Bluford, now 72, shattered the glass ceiling that surrounded Planet Earth into a million pieces when he became the first African American to reach outer space in 1983. Bluford would return to outer space three additional times by 1992 on other high profile space shuttle missions.
Today, Bluford holds the distinction as being the first African American to reach outer space and the second person of African ancestry to fly outside the earth’s atmosphere.
The Philadelphia born astronaut knew early on that he wanted to fly amongst the stars. After graduating from Overbrook High School, he attended and graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1964 with a bachelors in aerospace engineering. In 1974, Bluford earned a masters in aerospace engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. Never settling for anything less than amazing, Bluford continued his stellar education at the Air Force Institute of Technology, where he earned a PHD in aerospace engineering and laser physics. In 1983, he earned a MBA from University of Houston at Clear Lake, which is located minutes from NASA’s headquarters in Texas.
While working on his multiple degrees, Bluford was also learning how to fly. He earned his official wings in 1966 from Williams Air Force Base. A couple years later, the young pilot found himself fighting in the Vietnam War. He flew 144 combat missions while serving in Vietnam.
After leaving the combat zone in 1967, Bluford was assigned to Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, where he served as a pilot instructor. In 1972, Bluford was accepted in AFIT, paving the way for him to gain the skills, knowledge, and expertise to one day be an astronaut.
In 1979, NASA chose Bluford from thousands of qualified candidates to enter the space program.
On August 30, 1983, Bluford boarded the Challenger Space Shuttle and launched into outer space from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida: declaring him the first African American to leave this planet on a rocket ship. Bluford has impressively logged over 680 hours in outer space travel.
In 1997, Bluford was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame; and in 2010, he was inducted into the United States Astronauts Hall of Fame.