Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
Astronaut Guion Bluford flew in four Space Shuttle missions.
Guion S. Bluford Jr. was born in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1942. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering from The Pennsylvania State University in 1964. Bluford went on to receive two more master's degrees and a doctoral degree. In 1979, Bluford became a NASA astronaut. He was the first African American to go into space, and he traveled to space four times. Bluford has received more than 50 awards, including The Pennsylvania State University Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award, and he was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame.
Guion Bluford Jr. was born in 1942 in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bluford's father was a mechanical engineer, and his mother was a special education teacher. His parents always taught him and his two brothers to work hard and to reach for their goals. Even as a young child, Bluford liked to build model airplanes and put things together. His family and friends call him "Guy" because his first name is pronounced "Guy-on."
In his early years, he participated in Boy Scouts and ended up becoming an Eagle Scout. He graduated from Overbrook Senior High School in 1960. The school counselors told him that he was not college material and that he should think about going to a technical school. Bluford went on to receive a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering from The Pennsylvania State University in 1964. He married his wife, Linda Tull, during his senior year at Penn State. His wife became an accountant, and later on, they had two sons, Guion III and James.
Bluford was also an Air Force ROTC graduate from Penn State. After Bluford graduated, he went off to pilot training, and he received his pilot's wings in 1966. Bluford flew 144 combat missions as a fighter pilot in the Air Force. After Bluford served two years of active duty in the Air Force, he continued to move forward and pursue his goals. Bluford accomplished many things before he even got involved in NASA. In 1967, Bluford began working as a flight instructor at the Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. He continued climbing the ladder, and by 1971, he was the executive support officer to the deputy commander of operations and school secretary for the Flying Training Wing.
After graduating from the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), Bluford was assigned to the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. It was here that he researched, wrote, and presented scientific papers on computational fluid dynamics. In 1974, Bluford received a master's degree with a distinction in aerospace engineering from the AFIT. In 1978, he also received a doctor of philosophy in aerospace engineering degree with a minor in laser physics from the AFIT. The title of Bluford's dissertation was, "A numerical solution of supersonic and hypersonic viscous flow fields around thin planar delta wings."
After Bluford logged more than 5,200 hours of jet flight time, it was time for him to reach even higher. Bluford's astronaut career began when he was picked to be one of the 35 individuals to become space shuttle astronauts. This is significant because 10,000 other people applied to the program, but only 35 people were accepted. On August 30, 1983, Bluford became the first African American to go into space. At the moment the countdown reached zero and the shuttle lifted off the ground, Bluford was on his way to live out his dream.
During Bluford's career with NASA, he went to space four times. He was aboard the space shuttle Challenger for his first trip to space. This was the first mission to have a night launch and a night landing. On his first trip to space, Bluford was in charge of a variety of different experiments,and he helped to launch a communications and weather satellite for India. In 1985, Bluford went on his second space mission in the Challenger. Seven other crew members joined Bluford in this flight, making it the largest crew to fly into space.
In 1986, Bluford was the representative chosen to return the Challenger flag to Boy Scout Troop 514 of Monument, Colorado. The Challenger flag has been honored at other ceremonies, including the Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City. Between flights, Bluford also got a master's degree in business administration from the University of Houston in 1987. Bluford made his third trip to space in 1991. This time, he went in the Orbiter Discovery. His fourth and final trip to space was in 1992. Bluford was living his dream as an astronaut and he said, "The job is so fantastic, you don't need a hobby. The hobby is going to work." Bluford completed 518 orbits of the Earth, and he logged more than 688 hours in space.
Bluford has been involved in a wide variety of professional associations, such as the Coalition for Space Exploration. Bluford has received more than fifty special honors. In 1983, Bluford received The Pennsylvania State University Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award. He received this for his outstanding achievement as an astronaut, an officer, and a scholar. A former aerospace engineering student at Penn State said, "I look at him as a role model for the future."
In 1993, Bluford retired from NASA and the U.S Air Force. Five years later, he was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame. After retiring from NASA, Bluford went on to become the vice president of microgravity R & D and Operations for Logicon Operations and Services, which is an information technology and engineering services company of Northrop Grumman, headquartered in Herndon, VA. Also, he continued to hold some responsibilities with NASA. Bluford became a role model for his two boys, who both were science majors in college. He says this about his boys: "I want them to be happy. That's what is most important." He also paved the way for minority students who have the dream to become astronauts and go into space.