There are no bounds to the levels that black excellence can reach and that includes extending our greatness to other stratospheres. Black folks have had a hand in seeing through some of the most intricate space travels and in doing so add themselves to a club of FOD(first, only, different) change makers to do so. As an extension to Black History Month, here is a list of notable engineers and astronauts that have taken black excellence to infinity and beyond.
1. Dr. Mae Carol Jemison
Jemison was the first African American woman admitted into the astronaut training program and on September 12, 1992, she was the first African American woman to travel to space aboard the space shuttle Endeavor. While in space for 8 days she acted as a science mission specialist and conducted motion sickness and weightlessness experiments on the crew and herself.
2. Charles Bolden
Charles Frank Bolden, Jr. is the current Head Administrator of NASA and the first African American to hold the title. He was nominated by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the Senate in 2009. Prior to his appointment he logged over 680 hours in space as a NASA astronaut and commanded the STS-60’s crew of six aboard Discovery which was the first joint America/Russian space shuttle mission in 1994.
3. Dr. Christine Darden
Aerospace engineer and mathematician, Dr. Christine Darden, began working for NASA in 1967 as a data analyst. She later was promoted to write computer programs for engineers and also became the leader of the Sonic Boom Team in which she was responsible for decreasing the negative effects of noise pollution and depletion of the ozone layer in response to sonic booms.
4. Colonel Frederick Gregory
Colonel Frederick Gregory was selected as an astronaut in 1978. He made history as the first African American to pilot and command a space shuttle mission in 1989, aboard Discovery. At the end of his career he logged, three shuttle missions and over 455 hours in space. He ended his career as the Deputy Administrator at NASA headquarters in 2005.
5. Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson was a NASA mathematician and has been influential in conducting the mathematical computations for some of the most iconic space flights in American history. She was most influential in calculating timing trajectories for space mission launches. A film is being made about her and other African American women’s contributions to NASA and Taraji P. Henson is set to portray her.
6. Bernard A. Harris
Harris was selected as an astronaut candidate for NASA in 1990 and became an astronaut in 1991. During his second mission aboard, STS-63, Harris became the first African American to walk in space. He logged 198 hours completed 129 orbits around the earth and traveled almost 3 million miles.
7. Guion Bluford
Bluford became the first African American to ever travel in space in 1983. Aboard the space shuttle challenger for 145 hours, he assumed the role as a mission specialist where he and a crew conducted biophysiological experiments and operated a robot arm. Bluford made his final trip to space in 1992 aboard the mission STS-53, Discovery and retired with 688 logged hours in space. He was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997 and the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010.
8. Dr. Ronald McNair
Dr. McNair was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1978. His first flight was in 1984 as a mission specialist for the mission STS 41-B Challenger. The flight was the first of it’s kind in which Dr. McNair operated a Canadian robot arm to position crewman around the space shuttle’s payload bay. Upon completion of this mission, Dr. McNair totaled 191 hours in space and assumed primary responsibility over many of the experiments that took place aboard the mission. Dr McNair’s career was cut short in 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded after launch, taking his life and the lives of several others.
9. Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr.
In 1967, Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. was selected as an astronaut for the Manned Orbital Laboratory making him the first black astronaut selected for space travel. Unfortunately, only six months after assuming his position, Lawrence was killed in a plane crash. He posthumously was awarded the Purple Heart and has his name inscribed on the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
10. Stephanie Wilson
Engineer and astronaut, Stephanie Wilson became the second black female astronaut to travel in space in 2006. Over a 13 day flight, Wilson was responsible for robotic arm operations, module installations, and the transfer of more than 28,000 pounds of supplies and equipment to the ISS. To date she has logged 42 days in space and still works for NASA today.
11. Robert Satcher
All before the age of 50, Robert Satcher became an engineer, surgeon, and astronaut. He completed his astronaut candidacy in 2006 and became the first orthopedic surgeon to travel into space in 2009, aboard mission STS-129. He logged over 259 hours in space and took part in two space walks during his NASA career.