by Barry Burch Jr.
Last Friday, August 30, represents 30 years passed, since Guion “Guy” Bluford became the first African-American to travel through space. He launched into low-Earth orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, as reported by the Huffington Post. But he never intended on being a pioneer.
In a statement from NASA, Bluford said, “My desire was to make a contribution to the program.”
“People came from all over to watch this launch because I was flying,” he added. “I imagined them, all standing out there at one o’clock in the morning with their umbrellas, all asking the same question, ‘Why am I standing here?’”
Bluford comes from NASA’s history making class of 1978, which includes 35 spaceflyers; three of them African-American, and six women, including Sally Ride, according to the Huffington Post.
Bluford said that he and the other two black astronauts, Fred Gregory and Ron McNair were, indeed, aware that at least one of them would become a spaceflyer.
In a statement from NASA, Bluford recalled, “I probably told people that I would probably prefer not being in that role … because I figured being the number 2 guy would probably be a lot more fun.” Bluford has since accepted his true role.
“I wanted to set the standard, do the best job possible so that other people would be comfortable with African-Americans flying in space and African-Americans would be proud of being participants in the space program and… encourage others to do the same,” Bluford said.
In a video released by NASA this week, Bluford’s contributions are remembered by NASA chief Charles Bolden, who in 2009, became the agency’s first black administrator.
“What was so good about Sally and what was so good about Guy was the fact that they were good. They didn’t need to explain why they were there,” Bolden declared in the video.
A veteran of four space shuttle flights, Bolden added, “Guy was the first person of color to fly and that was absolutely incredible, but it was would have been empty had he been the first and only.”