Guion “Guy” Bluford made his dreams of flying among the stars a reality on this day in 1983, becoming the first African-American astronaut in space. Bluford logged well over 600 hours in space before retiring, and still managed to accomplish goals even beyond his historic achievement.

Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. was born November 22, 1942 in Philadelphia. Education was central in the Bluford household. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University in 1964 with a degree in Aerospace Engineering, the U.S. Air Force ROTC member then entered the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology. From AFIT, Bluford earned both a master’s and Ph. D in the same discipline as his undergraduate degree.

As an Air Force combat pilot. Bluford flew 144 missions during the Vietnam War and was decorated with several medals including the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm. It was after the war that Bluford entered AFIT and worked as an engineer at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

In the late ’70’s, Bluford joined over 10,000 other applicants who were attempting to join the NASA Space Shuttle Program. Bluford was among 35 potential astronauts selected for the elite program in 1978 and he completed his training the following year.

Bluford’s historic flight took place at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on August 30, 1983. As a mission specialist, Bluford and crew performed experiments in their 145 hours in space and returned to California’s Edwards Air Force Base. He would fly one more mission with the Challenger shuttle team but left the program after the tragic explosion of the vessel in 1986. During that time, Bluford returned to college to earn a MBA from the University of Houston, Clear Lake and began involving himself in the corporate side of engineering.

But the pull of space was too much for Bluford to ignore so he joined the Discovery shuttle team in 1991 and 1992 in a pair of classified missions for the U.S. Department of Defense. After his last mission, Bluford retired from the Air Force and NASA. He worked for the NYMA corporation as its vice president and general manager while also working in similar roles for Northrop Grumman and other organizations.

The 1997 International Space Hall of Fame and 2010 United Astronaut Hall of Fame inductee has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1964. The couple raised two children, sons Guion III and James. In recent times, Bluford has lectured and shared some of his educational and aeronautical experiences to a wide number of people.

PHOTO: NASA

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