Guion Bluford, First African-American in Space Pushes Others to Explore

Guion Bluford has seen a magnificent view, only witnessed by an elite few.

"I feel very fortunate to be the first African-American to fly in space, and hopefully not the last," Bluford said.

He broke down barriers by becoming the first African-American astronaut to fly in space.

"I wasn't sure that I was going to make it, that NASA wanted me and all of that sort of stuff," Bluford said, "but I thought that I would at least give it a try."

Bluford fostered his love of flying when he joined the Air Force ROTC while studying aeronautical engineering at Penn State University. In 1979, Dr. Bluford became one of 35 people selected to become an astronaut with NASA out of 8,000 applicants. 

"I was excited. It was a new experience for me. My background was primarily in airplanes, so it gave me an opportunity to broaden my technical background," he said.

The little boy who grew up in inner-city Philadelphia making model planes was an astronaut aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.

"I flew four times. I did various tasks; I mean, everything from deploying satellites to doing experiments and labs to working the arm, so all of that's exciting. The view out the window is spectacular," Bluford said.

Bluford delivered a lecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in November, highlighting the importance of diversity in aeronautics. He took time during the day to take selfies with students and encourage them to not be afraid to reach for the stars.

"I would tell them that they can do it. Don't let people tell them that they can't do it," he said.

He understands his responsibility as a role model and embraces it.

"I talk to the black astronauts in Houston and I tell them that when I flew in space, the big thing I was concerned about was doing a good job, because I wanted to make sure they could do it," he said. "I hope that I opened up the pathway for them."

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