First African-American astronaut in space, Guion Bluford Jr., honored at Great Lakes Science Center
CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Great Lakes Science Center contributed to the decorated career of retired astronaut Guion Bluford Jr. on Thursday by marking the 35th anniversary of his maiden space shuttle mission with the unveiling of a new exhibit dedicated in his honor.
The exhibit features personal memorabilia Bluford collected over the course of his nearly 30-year flying career, which included four space shuttle missions from 1983 to 1992. Two were on Discovery, and two were aboard Challenger, which later exploded in 1986, killing all aboard.
Bluford, 75, was the first African-American astronaut to travel to space.
“I feel very honored to be recognized by the city, the county and the Great Lakes Science Center,” Bluford said during a break in an autograph-signing session following the event.
“I can only hope that this exhibit will serve as an incentive to encourage these kids to pursue career opportunities in science, and maybe even to become an astronaut. Who knows, some day one of these kids may even go to Mars,” Bluford said.
Bluford and his wife live in Westlake. He retired from NASA in 1993 after logging nearly 700 hours in space, and in 2002 became president of the Aerospace Technology Group, an engineering consulting company in Cleveland.
Bluford received an Award of Distinction during the morning ceremony, answered questions from the audience, and toured the exhibit with students from Cleveland’s MC2 STEM High School, John Adams College & Career Academy and the Davis Aerospace & Maritime High School.
Bluford grew up in Philadelphia. Prior to joining NASA, he served as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, flying 144 combat missions from 1966 to 1967.
Bluford was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997 and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010.