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Northeast Ohio man celebrates 40 years since becoming the first African-American in space

Guy Bluford
Posted at 7:05 PM, Aug 30, 2023

CLEVELAND — 40 years later, it’s hard to imagine that time has flown by.

“I am amazed it’s been that long; it makes me feel old,” Dr. Guy Bluford said.

On August 30, 1983, STS-8 headed to space with five crew members aboard, the first night launch and the first time ever that an African-American was on board.

Dr. Guy Bluford is the first African American in space.

“I never saw black pilots of any sort,” Bluford said. “I was fortunate that I had a father who was a mechanical engineer.”

The Philly native now calls Northeast Ohio home after a 29-year career, logging four trips to space and nearly 700 hours in orbit.

Bluford joined NASA in 1978, selected from a pool of over 3000 applicants.

“I represented other African Americans and encouraged them to come into the astronaut program and to come into science and engineering,” Bluford said.

Bluford joined NASA at a time when the government aimed to increase space force diversity.

“The mission specialist position for the space shuttle really allowed for a diverse class, and that’s what you see in that 1978 class; you see women for the first time,” said Brian Odom, NASA’s Chief Historian. “You see African Americans obviously, but you see other minorities, you see Asian Americans, Hispanics.”

Since Bluford launched into space four decades ago, dozens of other black men and women have followed Bluford’s footsteps working for NASA as engineers, pilots and astronauts.

“I’m honored that they stand on my shoulders, and I’m hoping that there will be other people standing on other black astronauts' shoulders,” Bluford said.

Years later, 17 black people total have gone to space, something that Bluford, who simply wanted to be a pilot, never imagined.

But who needs imagination when you can see someone who looks like you be an example that you can do it too?

“It’s an indication of what we can do, I’m an African American, I have a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, there’s a lot of African Americans who can do that,” Bluford said.

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