African-American Astronauts


Major Robert Lawrence was the first African-American selected to be an astronaut. He was selected to be an astronaut in a proposed Air Force space program called the Manned Orbiting Laboratory.
Major Lawrence died in a plane crash during a training mission in 1967, however. This occurred before he had an opportunity to fly into space.
Note that the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program eventually was canceled.


Guion Bluford was the first African-American astronaut to orbit the Earth. He was born November 22, 1942, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was also a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. He flew as a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Challenger from August 30 to September 5, 1983.
This mission was called STS-8. It was the first night launch of a shuttle, as well as the first night landing.
Guion Bluford also flew on three other shuttle missions: STS-61A, STS-39, and STS-53. He is currently the vice president and general manager of an engineering company in Maryland.


Ronald McNair was the second African-American astronaut to orbit the Earth. He was an MIT physicist. He flew on the Space Shuttle Challenger in February 1984. He was later killed with six other astronauts in the Challenger disaster in January 28, 1986.


Dr. Mae C. Jemison was the first African-America woman in space. She flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour, on the STS-47 mission. This mission was launched on September 12, 1992.
Dr. Jemison was born October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama. She earned a a doctorate in medicine degree from Cornell University in 1981. She served as the Area Peace Corps Medical Officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa.


Dr. Harris was the first African-American to walk in space. He accomplished this on the STS-63 mission, which was carried out February 2-11, 1995. Mission highlights included the rendezvous with the Russian Space Station, Mir, operation of a variety of investigations in the Spacehab module, and the deployment and retrieval of Spartan 204.

In addition, Dr. Harris was a mission specialist on the STS-55 mission in 1993.

Dr. Harris earned a doctorate in medicine from Texas Tech University School of Medicine in 1982.

 Recommended Books

Burns and Miles, Black Stars in Orbit

Dr. Mae Jemison,
Find Where the Wind Goes : Moments from My Life


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