Colonel Guion Stewart Bluford, Jr

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

In celebration of Black History Month, the Runnels County Register will run weekly articles on the achievements of influential Black people.

Official portrait of astronaut Guion S. Bluford. Bluford, a member of Astronaut Class 8 and the United States Air Force (USAF), poses in his launch and entry suit (LES) holding a launch and entry helmet (LEH) with the United States flag as a backdrop.

Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. is an American aerospace engineer, retired U.S. Air Force officer and fighter pilot, and former NASA astronaut, who is the first African American and the second person of African descent to go to space.

Prior to becoming an astronaut, Colonel Blufor was an officer in the U.S. Air Force, where he remained while assigned to NASA, rising to the rank of colonel. He participated in four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992. In 1983, as a member of the crew of the Orbiter Challenger on the mission STS-8, he became the first African American in space as well as the second person of African ancestry in space.

Colonel Bluford was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 22, 1942. After graduating from high school, he attended Pennsylvania State University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1964. He received a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1974. Four years later, in 1978, Colonel Bluford received his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Laser Physics.

Colonel Bluford attended pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, receiving his pilot wings in January 1966. He attended F-4C combat crew training in Arizona and Florida before being assigned to the 557th Flying Training Squadron.

In July 1967, Bluford was assigned to the 3630th Flying Training Wing, Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, as a T-38A instructor pilot. He served as a standardization/evaluation officer and as an assistant flight commander. In early 1971, he attended Squadron Officer School and returned as an executive support officer to the Deputy Commander of Operations and as School Secretary for the Wing.

In August 1972, Bluford entered the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology residency school at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Upon graduating in 1974 with his master's degree, Bluford was assigned to the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a staff development engineer. He served as deputy for advanced concepts for the Aeromechanics Division and as branch chief of the Aerodynamics and Air frame Branch in the Laboratory. He has written and presented several scientific papers in the area of computational fluid dynamics.

Colonel Bluford has logged over 5,200 hours of jet flight time in the T-33, T-37, T-38, F-4C, U-2/TR-1, and F-5A/B aircraft, including 1,300 hours as a T-38 instructor pilot. He also has an FAA commercial pilot license.

Colonel Bluford has extensive astronaut experience. The following is an entry on his page on Wikipedia:

Bluford was selected to become a NASA astronaut in January 1978 as a part of NASA astronaut group 8. They trained for a year and were officially designated as astronauts in August 1979. His technical assignments have included working with Space Station operations, the Remote Manipulator System (RMS), Spacelab systems and experiments, Space Shuttle systems, payload safety issues and verifying flight software in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL) and in the Flight Systems Laboratory (FSL). Bluford was a mission specialist on STS-8, STS-61-A, STS-39, and STS-53.

Some of NASA's first African-American astronauts including L-R; Ronald McNair, Guion Bluford and Fred Gregory from the class of 1978 selection of astronauts.

Bluford's first mission was STS-8, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on August 30, 1983. This was the third flight for the Orbiter Challenger and the first mission with a night launch and night landing. During the mission, the STS-8 crew deployed the Indian National Satellite (INSAT-1B); tested the Canadian-built robotic arm (the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS) or Canadarm) with the Payload Flight Test Article (PFTA); operated the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES) with live cell samples; conducted medical measurements to understand biophysiological effects of space flight; and activated four "Getaway Special" canisters. STS-8 completed 98 orbits of the Earth in 145 hours before landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on September 5, 1983.

Bluford then served on the crew of STS-61-A, the German D-1 Spacelab mission, which launched from Kennedy Space Center on October 30, 1985. This mission was the first to carry eight crew members, the largest crew to fly in space and included three European payload specialists. This was the first dedicated Spacelab mission under the direction of the German Aerospace Research Establishment (DFVLR) and the first U.S. mission in which payload control was transferred to a foreign country (German Space Operations Center, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany). During the mission, the Global Low Orbiting Message Relay Satellite (GLOMR) was deployed from a "Getaway Special" (GAS) container, and 76 experiments were performed in Spacelab in such fields as fluid physics, materials processing, life sciences, and navigation. After completing 111 orbits of the Earth in 169 hours, Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base on November 6, 1985.

On Challenger's middeck, Mission Specialist (MS) Guion Bluford, restrained by harness and wearing blood pressure cuff on his left arm, exercises on the treadmill. Forward lockers with data recording units and checklist notebooks are to the left of Bluford.

Bluford also served on the crew of STS-39, which launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 28, 1991, aboard the Orbiter Discovery. The crew gathered aurora, Earth-limb, celestial, and Shuttle environment data with the AFP-675 payload. This payload consisted of the Cryogenic Infrared Radiance Instrumentation for Shuttle (CIRRIS-1A) experiment, Far Ultraviolet Camera experiment (FAR UV), the Uniformly Redundant Array (URA), the Quadrupole Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer (QINMS), and the Horizon Ultraviolet Program (HUP) experiment. The crew also deployed and retrieved the SPAS-II which carried the Infrared Background Signature Survey (IBSS) experiment. The crew also operated the Space Test Payload-1 (STP-1) and deployed a classified payload from the Multi-Purpose Experiment Canister (MPEC). After completing 134 orbits of the Earth and 199 hours in space, Discovery landed at the Kennedy Space Center on May 6, 1991.

Bluford's last mission was STS-53, which launched from Kennedy Space Center on December 2, 1992. The crew of five deployed the classified Department of Defense payload DOD-1 and then performed several Military-Man-in-Space and NASA experiments. After completing 115 orbits of the Earth in 175 hours, Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base on December 9, 1992.

With the completion of his fourth flight, Bluford has logged over 688 hours (29 days) in space.

Bluford, an Eagle Scout, was designated as the emissary to return the Challenger flag to Boy Scout Troop 514 of Monument, Colorado in December 1986. On December 18 of that year, he presented the flag to the troop in a special ceremony at Falcon Air Force Base.