Honoring African-Americans in Space
Somehow February went by like a flash, but here at the Janet’s Planet Spacelog Blog, we didn’t want this month, which happens to be Black History Month, to pass us by without honoring some of the amazing African-American individuals who have contributed to our country’s space program.
Never heard of Guion “Guy” Bluford, Jr.? He happens to hold the title of the first African-American astronaut. Born in Philadelpha in 1942, he was encouraged from a young age to value education, attending Penn State University and also serving our country in the Air Force.
In 1978 Bluford learned he was among 35 astronaut candidates selected from over 10,000. He entered the Astronaut Training Program and his first mission was STS-8, aboard the space shuttle Challenger. After orbiting the earth 98 times, Bluford and the rest of his crew landed at Edwards Air Force Base on Sept. 5, 1983.
Guion Bluford was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997 and still travels around, speaking to young people about his experiences in space.
The first African-American woman in space was Dr. Mae Jemison, back in 1992. Jemison was born in Alabama, but moved to Chicago at an early age and attended Stanford University. Her first application to NASA was turned down, but she was dedicated to succeed, applying again and becoming one of the 15 candidates accepted from over 2,000 applicants.
Jemison served as the science mission specialist on STS-47 Spacelab-J, a cooperative mission between the United States and Japan. Her eight-day mission made 127 orbits of earth and allowed her to log 190 hours, 30 minutes, and 23 seconds in space.
In addition to her career as a scientist and astronaut, Jemison also served in the Peace Corps, traveling to countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia providing medical care and establishing health guidelines.
These are just two of the extraordinary African Americans who have helped make the space program what it is today. We wanted to take today’s post to honor them and hope it serves as a reminder for us all that following our dreams can lead to exciting places!
Oh and by the way, Happy Leap Year! February 29, we’ll see you again in four years!