WEST MONROE, La. (KTVE/KARD) — On August 30th, 1983, U.S. Astronaut Guion S. Bluford, Jr. was the first African American to go to space. His role as a crew member aboard the shuttle orbiter Challenger on the STS-8 mission, which was its third flight, was a mission specialist. This was also the first launch and landing of a space shuttle at night.

Remarkably, Bluford was one of 35 individuals selected in 1978 from 10,000 applicants in NASA’s first competition to become space shuttle astronauts. During his first spaceflight, he and the crew deployed INSAT-1B, an Indian communication satellite.

He then went on two more space missions, the second being in November 1985 aboard the space shuttle Challenger, and his last in April 1991, aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

This was after he earned his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Pennsylvania State University, a master’s degree in aerospace engineering in 1974 and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and laser physics in 1978, both from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He then continued to earn an M.B.A. in 1987 from the University of Houston, Clear Lake.

Soon after earning his bachelor’s degree, Bluford was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, where he trained as a fighter pilot. During that time, he flew 144 combat missions during the Vietnam War.

In 1993, Guion S. Bluford, Jr. retired from the military and NASA. While doing so, he became vice president of the Engineering Services Division of NYMA Inc. in Greenbelt, Md. Then in 1997, he became vice president of the Aerospace Sector of Federal Data Corporation, and in 2000, Bluford became vice president of Microgravity R&D and Operations for the Northrop Grumman Corporation. 

Guion Bluford was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997, and he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on June 5, 2010, rightfully so.