JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The following is a description of Guion Bluford's first trip into space on the space shuttle Challenger and his rise to become a history maker. He was the first African American to fly in space on August 30, 1983 and the first to return to space a second, third and fourth time.
The retired astronaut is now 80 years old, living in Ohio with his wife. He agreed to narrate this week's Vivid Hues: Stories of Black History as artist Keith Doles helps us to visualize the experience.
The views outside these windows are amazing, exclaimed Bluford. I can see a thousand miles in any direction. I'm even flying at 18,000 miles an hour, fast enough to cross the United States in only ten minutes.
Flying in space is great. I definitely want to do this again.
On my first flight into space we were delayed by rain. We had to sit on the launch pad for 15 more minutes before we lifted off at 2:30 in the morning. It took us only eight and a half minutes to get into orbit. What a fabulous ride! I flew three more times into space.
For an inner-city kid from Philadelphia, flying in space was a dream come true. I grew up making model airplanes, reading books about airplanes and wanting to be an aerospace engineer. I loved math and science in school and here I am on orbit flying in the space shuttle.
I worked hard to get here. I became a pilot in the Air Force, flew fighter aircraft in Vietnam and became an instructor pilot. I went back to school to learn more about aerospace engineering and finally became an astronaut.
When I was in high school I had a college counselor indicate that I was not college material. Well, she was wrong. I got a bachelor, masters and PHD in aerospace engineering and even an MBA. I proved her wrong. I knew that I could do it.
Flying in space taught me that I could be anything I want to be. If I dream big, work hard and be persistent I can achieve what ever goals I set. I aimed high and became an astronaut.