A Historic Flight for Astronauts of Color

A Historic Flight for Astronauts of Color

Kateryn Perez Tepozteco, Student Journalist

On Monday, November 16th, SpaceX launched its first fully operational crewed mission. SpaceX worked with NASA to send four astronauts to the International Space Station. This is the first time a private company has done so. The four astronauts joined three other astronauts that were already on the ISS: two Russian men and an American woman. This is also a historic mission because one of the astronauts, Victor Glover, is the first African American to become a full-time crew member on the ISS. Let’s take a look at some other important people of color in space. 


Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. was the first African American to go to space and the second ever person of African ancestry to go to space. He was born in Philadelphia in 1942 and at a young age he was fascinated with space and design and building airplanes. After graduating from Penn State with a degree as an aerospace engineer, he entered the US Air Force and graduated with his pilot wings. He made his first flight in 1983 as a mission specialist on the eighth shuttle mission. He succeeded and spent six days up in space with his four fellow crew members and launched a communication satellite for the government of India. 


Rodolfo Neri Vela was the first Mexican in space. He was born 1952 in Chilpancingo, Guerrero. He was a Mexican scientist and engineer and also the first Mexican citizen to fly in space. After finishing school he returned back to Mexico and worked for radio communication groups at the Institution of Electric Research in Cuernavaca, Morelos. He first flew on the space shuttle Atlantis as a payload specialist on STS-61-B crew. He launched into space on November 26th, 1985 and returned to earth on December 3rd, 1985 after spending a week in space. During the mission, Neri Vela and his fellow crew mates deployed three communications satellites, one of which was the Mexican satellite Morelos-B. Neri Vela also performed multiple scientific experiments for the Mexican government.


Mae Carol Jemison was the first African American woman to go to space. She was born in Alabama and raised in Chicago. She graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Chemical Engineering. She then earned her medical degree from Cornell Uni

versity. Jemison was a doctor for the Peace Corps in Liberia and Sierra Leone from 1983 to 1985. Then she applied for NASA and spent 7 days, 22 hours, and 30 minutes up in space before leaving NASA to found a technology research company. She also wrote several books for children and appeared on television several times including in a 1993 episode of star trek “The Next Generation”. Jemison also holds an honorary doctorate and is in the International Space Hall of Fame.