Winning Essay by Lane D., Iowa State University

When I think of an inspiring African-American, I instantly think of Guion Bluford, Jr. Guion Bluford was the first African-American man to travel into space. He overcame a traditionally white-dominated field to make his mark in the history of United States space exploration. Bluford Jr. has inspired me because I am planning to study aerospace engineering and would love to help design both aircraft and spacecraft for the United States government.

Guion Bluford originally majored in aerospace engineering from Pennsylvania State University and went on to fly many combat missions in Vietnam as an Air Force pilot. This inspires me because not only did he fight for a country that, at that time, was not fully appreciating African-Americans, but that he went on to become a respected astronaut of NASA. By breaking the color barrier in the field of space exploration, Guion Bluford’s story inspired many other potential astronauts that they could accomplish anything they set their mind to. Though I cannot speak for them, I am sure he gave hope, inspiration, and motivation to countless young African-Americans to reach for their dreams and achieve them. Bluford Jr. has motivated me to look beyond myself and see that my actions every day can help inspire and motivate the next generation. This helps me remember to look beyond my own interests and see that the world can be improved by not only advances in aerospace engineering, but in everyday lives of ordinary people.

The contributions of Guion Bluford, Jr. are never ending. One of his first accomplishments was flying 155 combat missions in the Vietnam War and winning several awards for his courage and service. He received a Master’s and a PhD in aerospace engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology, and went on to be selected for NASA’s astronaut program. The main contribution of Bluford Jr.’s life was being the first African-American man in space, which occurred on August 30, 1983. His amazing career with NASA and the Air Force culminated in 1993, and he ended his astronaut career with 688 total hours in space.

To commemorate the amazing career of Guion Bluford, Jr., he was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2010, Bluford Jr. was inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame. These achievements can very well be called contributions when the inspiration these achievements caused are considered. Many of these achievements can be motivational to any person, regardless of their race and ethnicity. For example, getting a PhD in aerospace engineering would be motivational to anyone who aspires to one day receive a PhD. Guion Bluford, Jr. had an amazing life and career that has the ability to inspire anyone in the world, regardless of their goal.


“Guion S. Bluford.”, A&E Networks Television, 19 Jan. 2018, Accessed 6 Feb. 2019.

“Guion S. Bluford, Jr.” Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, Accessed 4 Feb. 2019.


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