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

Unknown Joan E. Higginbotham

Higginbotham is a Chicago native and attended Whitney M. Young High School. She has a degree in electrical engineering from Southern Illinois University and a master’s in space systems from the Florida Institute of Technology. Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1996, she flew on STS-116 in 2006. Higginbotham was assigned to fly on STS-126, but retired from NASA in November 2007 to pursue a career in the public sector. She has logged more than 300 hours in space.



Capt. Winston E. Scott (U.S. Navy, Retired)

The majority of U.S. astronauts have been military aviators like Scott, who was born Aug. 6, 1950, in Miami. He is a former Navy pilot. Scott graduated from Florida State with a music degree and holds a master’s in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. He has logged a total of 24 days, 14 hours and 34 minutes in space, including three spacewalks totaling 19 hours and 26 minutes.



Capt. Robert L. Curbeam Jr. (U.S. Navy, Retired)

Curbeam was born March 5, 1962, in Baltimore. He graduated from Woodlawn High School, Baltimore County, in 1980. Curbeam is a retired Navy pilot with a degree in aerospace engineering from the Naval Academy and a master’s in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He flew on STS-85, STS-98 and STS-116, logging over 593 hours in space, including over 19 spacewalk hours during three spacewalks.

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