First African-American in Space Among Four Joining Astronaut Hall of Fame

First African-American in Space Among Four Joining Astronaut Hall of Fame
2010 class of Astronaut Hall of Fame inductees: Guy Bluford, Ken Bowersox, Frank Culbertson and Kathy Thornton (Image credit: NASA/

The first African-American to fly in space, along with threeother accomplished astronauts, are set to join the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Famein June.

The ninth classof space shuttle astronauts to be added to the Hall's Mercury,Gemini and Apollo ranks since 2001, the 2010 inductees will increasethe Florida facility's total number of honorees to 77. An inductionceremony planned for June 5, 2010 at the Kennedy Space Centerwill reunite many of the astronauts to celebrate the enshrinement ofGuy Bluford, Ken Bowersox, Frank Culbertson and Kathy Thornton.

The four astronauts were chosen by a committee of more than80 retired NASA officials, historians, journalists and all the members ofthe Hall of Fame,as overseen by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. To be eligible forconsideration this year, the astronauts needed to have made their firstflight in 1992 or earlier; have been retired from flight status as a NASAcommander, pilot or mission specialist for at least five years; be aU.S. citizen; and have orbited the Earth at least once.

According to the Foundation, which will host a gala dinnerhonoring the 2010 class the evening prior to the induction, candidateswere selected not only for their contributions to the space program duringtheir active astronaut careers but also after their retirement.

Blazing a trail into the night

Guion "Guy" Bluford became the firstAfrican-American in space when he joined the crew of the first spaceshuttle mission to launch and land at night.

"We had to, as a crew, figure out the techniques thatwere required to launch the thing at night and, as well as land the thingat night," Dr. Bluford told in2002 on the anniversary of his 1983 STS-8 mission, which was dedicated todeploying a multipurpose India-built satellite and conducting medicalmeasurements to understand the effects of spaceflight on the human body.

Bluford's first flight and the three that followedalso blazed the path forward into space for African-Americans.

"I feel very proud of being a trailblazer withreference to spaceflight, particularly for African-Americans," he said."I recognize I was one of several African-Americans that cameinto the program, and I think we have all made significant contributionsto the program."

Bluford's other missions included the first of theGerman-directed Spacelab science flights (STS-61A in 1985) and twoDepartment of Defense-dedicated missions (STS-39 in 1991 and STS-53 in1992).

After retiring from NASA in 1993, Bluford took posts in theaerospace sector, and for the past 16 years, has served on severalindustry boards. Currently, he serves as the president of AerospaceTechnology Group, an engineering consulting organization in Ohio, andis associated with the Coalition for Space Exploration.

Continue reading aboutKen Bowersox, Frank Culbertson and Kathy Thornton at

  • Video Show - Riding the Space Shuttle
  • Image Gallery - Shuttle Discovery's Midnight Launch
  • Video Show - Inside the International Space Station 

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.