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Rocket Man:
A Tribute to Dr. Guion S. Bluford Jr.

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Our Black History Month spotlight this year is focused on aerospace engineer, USAF fighter pilot and astronaut, Dr. Guion “Guy” Bluford Jr.

Bluford was born in Philadelphia in 1942, graduating from Overbrook High School in 1960. He earned a B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University in 1964; a M.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) in 1974; a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Laser Physics from AFIT, in 1978; and an M.B.A. degree from the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 1987. He is also the recipient of 14 honorary doctorate degrees!

During his time in the U.S. Air Force, Bluford trained as a fighter pilot, eventually logging over 5,200 hours of flying time while serving in Vietnam. Later, he served in the Air Force as a flight instructor.

Bluford became a NASA astronaut in 1978, assigned to Space Station operations, the Remote Manipulator System, Spacelab and other missions. His first mission, STS-8, launched from Kennedy Space Center in 1983. He is recognized as the first Black American to go into space. He spent over 688 hours in space on multiple missions from 1983 to 1992.

After leaving NASA and the USAF, Bluford was hired as Vice President/General Manager of the New York Military Academy’s (NYMA) Engineering Division. In 1997 he became VP of the Aerospace Sector of the Federal Data Corporation, the VP of Microgravity R&D and Operations for Northrup Grumman in 2000, and the President of Aerospace Technology in 2002.

Bluford was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997; the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010, and the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2019. In 2020, he was awarded the State of Ohio’s Distinguished Service Medal.

We applaud Dr. Bluford’s ability to break through cultural, educational, scientific, and corporate barriers. In doing so, he helped pave the way for people from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology. According to him, the sky is not the limit!