Austin
4:23 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

ACC Welcomes First African-American in Space

The first African-American to fly aboard the Space Shuttle was in Austin today.

In honor of Black History Month, Austin Community College invited Dr. Guy Bluford to speak to ACC students and community members today.  He talked about his experiences of traveling to space and his work on the International Space Station. After his talk, Bluford talked to KUT News about the Space Shuttle's pending retirement.

"Eventually it was going to be retired," Bluford said.  "Remember, we'd been flying the shuttle for almost 30 years, so there is a point in which you do retire it. And the purpose of the shuttle was to build the International Space Station so as the space station gets completed there really is not that much of a need for a vehicle of that type. And also technology has come a long way. So it's time for us to develop some type of vehicle to replace the shuttle."

Bluford spent 15 years as an astronaut. He made four trips to space between 1983 and 1992 and participated in the first night launch and night landing of the space shuttle Challenger on August 30, 1983. His duties in space ranged from working on Space Station operations, to Spacelab systems and experiments, to payload safety issues.

Bluford believes that the future of human space exploration is strong, thanks to continuing worldwide interest in traveling beyond the Earth's atmosphere.

"There is a lot of interest in human space flight. Not only in the United States but around the world," Bluford said. "The Russians are interested, the Europeans still support it, the Chinese support it. We have something called the International Space Station and we'll be supporting that for at least another 10 years, and that will be an international effort."

Among those in the audience, was a group of students representing the Texas Empowerment Academy. One of them asked Dr. Bluford what they could do to become astronauts.

"I encourage kids to aim high," Bluford said. "To choose careers in things that really get them excited and to realize that with hard work and perseverance and stick-to-it-iveness they can be anything they want to be.