America’s First Black Astronauts: 15 People Who Paved the Way

Venturing into outer space is a rarity that requires hard work, dedication and sacrifice. These 15 Black men and women include scientists, doctors, chemists and military leaders who have truly paved the way for Blacks to explore and exceed their wildest imagination. Here are the Black astronauts who raised the standard, according to NASA and The Root.

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Maj. Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. (U.S. Air Force, Deceased)


Born Oct. 2, 1935, the Chicago native was a top-performing student at Englewood High School and Bradley University. Lawrence was selected by the Air Force for astronaut training in July 1967. On Dec. 8, 1967, he died in a crash of an F-104 fighter jet while instructing a student pilot at the controls. Lawrence, who held a Ph.D. in chemistry from Ohio State University, never got to fulfill his dream, but he left behind a legacy for others who made the journey into space, according to The Root.

 

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Col. Guion S. Bluford Jr. (U.S. Air Force, Retired)

Born in Philadelphia on Nov. 22, 1942, Bluford was the first African-American astronaut to blast off aboard Challenger in 1983. According to NASA, Bluford, who has a degree in aerospace engineering from Penn State, was an accomplished fighter pilot who flew 144 missions in Vietnam before entering NASA’s rigorous Astronaut Training Program. Bluford logged four shuttle missions.

 

 

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Bernard A. Harris Jr., M.D.

Harris was born June 26, 1956, in Temple, Texas. Graduating from Sam Houston High School in San Antonio in 1974, Harris holds a degree in biology from the University of Houston and a medical degree from Texas Tech. Harris was selected by NASA in January 1990 and flew his first shuttle mission aboard Columbia in 1993. He became the first African-American to walk in space during a joint mission with the Russians in 1995, according to The Root. Harris is a veteran of two space flights, with more than 438 hours in space on STS-55 and STS-63, according to NASA.

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