Former astronaut explores space inspiration

More than 688 hours of his life have been spent in space. During his 14 years with NASA, Guion Bluford’s space missions have taken him outside the Earth’s atmosphere on the Challenger and Discovery space shuttles.

But his accomplishments on Earth have been just as impressive. Bluford, the first black to go to space, earned his bachelor’s of science, master’s and doctor of philosophy in aerospace engineering.

Tonight, Bluford will speak in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom for Black Family Technology Awareness Week.

Lakisha Clark, founding chair for the National Society of Black Engineering Alumni, said Bluford’s visit was arranged before the Feb. 1 loss of Columbia.

Bluford’s lecture, titled “Inspiration from Space,” was arranged for the awareness week which began Saturday to increase the use of technology among minorities.

“It just kind of happened that way,” Clark said. “We’ve worked on getting him here for quite some time.”

In fact it took about a year to arrange for Bluford to come to USF. Tjuana Brown, vice president for National Society of Black Engineers, said during a presentation of black engineers last February, that she had the idea to bring one of the engineers to speak to students.

“I did it because Dr. Bluford has succeeded academically and used his engineering tools for success,” Brown said. “We study all the time in engineering and it’s not easy. We hit a lot of obstacles, it’s just nice to know there is someone like us who has succeeded.”

Bluford received his first degree from Penn State University in 1960. His interest in aerospace engineering eventually led him to become an Air Force graduate and a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War.

Clark, a USF graduate of chemical engineering, said it is important that minorities learn more about engineering.

Bluford’s life, Clark said, was an inspiration for her, and she hopes his lecture will inspire minorities in USF’s engineering program.

From 1979 — 1993, Bluford worked for NASA. His first space mission came in 1983 on the Challenger. During the mission he, along with the crew, studied the biophysiological effects of space flight.

“To me, it is very encouraging to see someone who has accomplished so much,” Clark said. “I hope Dr. Bluford’s address will touch young people and let them know their dreams are possible if they keep working hard.”