Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 22, 1942, Guion Bluford became the first African-American to travel into space and only the second person of African heritage to do so. His first space flight was as a mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.
Bluford was a colonel and pilot in the U.S. Air Force prior to becoming an astronaut in 1979. He flew 144 missions throughout the Vietnam War after earning a Ph.D in aerospace engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Houston - Clear Lake. Prior to that, he obtained a bachelors degree in aerospace engineering at Pennsylvania State University. In 1964, Bluford married Linda Tull and later had two children, Guion III and James.
While in the Vietnam War, Bluford earned several awards, including the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm. In 1978, he joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's space program.
While on his first space mission, Bluford made 98 Earth orbits in 145 hours. He was aboard the Challenger again in 1985 in a mission that included 111 Earth orbits in 169 hours. Traveling on space shuttle Discovery, he completed his last two space missions in 1991 and 1992. A herniated disc almost made it impossible for him to participate in the 1991 flight.