Dr. Guion S. “Guy” Bluford, Jr. became a NASA astronaut in August 1979. A veteran of four space flights, Bluford was a mission specialist on STS-8 in 1983, STS-61A in 1985, STS-39 in 1991, and STS-53 in 1992. Guion Bluford was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 22, 1942. His father was a mechanical engineer and his mother was a special education teacher. He graduated from Overbrook Senior High School in Philadelphia in 1960. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University in 1964; a Master of Science degree with distinction in Aerospace Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1974; a Doctor of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in laser physics from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1978, and a Master in Business Administration degree from the University of Houston, Clear Lake, in 1987.
Bluford, a distinguished Air Force ROTC graduate at Penn State, enrolled in pilot training at Williams Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona in 1964, and received his pilot wings in January 1966. He then took F-4C combat crew training in Arizona and Florida before serving in the 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. He flew 144 combat missions from there, 65 of which were over North Vietnam.
In July 1967, Guion Bluford was assigned to the 3630th Flying Training Wing, Sheppard AFB, Texas, as a T-38A instructor pilot. He served as a standardization and evaluation officer and as an assistant flight commander. In 1971, he attended Squadron Officers School and after graduation became executive support officer to the Deputy Commander of Operations and school secretary for the Wing. In August 1972, he entered the Air Force Institute of Technology Residency School at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio. Upon graduating in 1974, he was assigned to the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory at Wright-Patterson as a staff development engineer. He also served as deputy for advanced concepts for the Aeromechanics Division and as chief of the Aerodynamics and Airframe Branch in the Laboratory.
Dr. Bluford became a NASA astronaut in August 1979. STS-8 Challenger, his first mission into space, was launched from Kennedy Space Center (KSC), as were all shuttle flights, on August 30, 1983. He helped deploy INSAT-1B, a multipurpose satellite for India attached to the Payload Assist Module-D motor. On this mission, the nose of the orbiter was kept away from the sun for fourteen hours to test the flight deck area in extreme cold. The Challenger returned to Earth with a landing at Edwards AFB, California, on September 5, 1983.
His next space flight, STS-61A was the last successful mission of the Challenger. Launched on October 30, 1985, it holds the record for the largest crew (eight persons) to be aboard any spacecraft for the entire period from launch to landing. The primary mission was to operate a series of experiments, almost all related to functions in microgravity, as part of Spacelab D-1, the fourth flight of a Spacelab. The shuttle landed safely at Edwards on November 6, 1985.
Bluford’s next mission was from April 28 to May 6, 1991, aboard STS-39 Discovery. He helped make observations of the atmosphere and gas releases, and assisted in deploying five satellites. STS-39 landed in Kennedy Space Center after 3,470,000 miles in orbit. Bluford’s last shuttle flight came on December 2, 1992, aboard STS-53 Discovery. This seven-day mission carried classified military payloads and ended with a landing at Edwards AFB, California. In his four shuttle missions, Guion Bluford has logged over 688 hours in space.
Colonel Bluford has written and presented several scientific papers in the area of computational fluid dynamics. He has over 5,100 hours jet flight time in the T-33, T-37, T-38, F-4C, F-15, U-2/TR-1, and F-5A/B, including 1,300 hours as a T-38 instructor pilot. He also holds an FAA commercial pilot license. He retired from the Air Force in 1993, with the rank of colonel. He left NASA in July of that year to take the post of Vice President/General Manager, Engineering Services Division of NYMA. He later served as vice president and general manager of the Science and Engineering Group, Aerospace Sector of Federal Data Corporation in Maryland.
Guion Bluford has received many accolades and awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, the Strike/Flight Medal, Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from the University of South Carolina (1984), Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Winthrop College (1986), the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal (1992), NASA Exceptional Service Medals (1988, 1989, 1991), the University of Southern California Alumni Award of Merit (1989), and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Johnson C. Smith University (1990).
Guion S. Bluford Jr. Quotes
“I felt an awesome responsibility, and I took the responsibility very seriously, of being a role model and opening another door to black Americans, but the important thing is not that I am black, but that I did a good job as a scientist and an astronaut. There will be black astronauts flying in later missions … and they, too, will be people who excel, not simply who are black . . . who can ably represent their people, their communities, their country.”
“I’ve come to appreciate the planet we live on. It’s a small ball in a large universe. It’s a very fragile ball but also very beautiful. You don’t recognize that until you see it from a little farther off.”