On Wednesday, November 16, former astronaut Guion Bluford shared his 15 years worth of experience in NASA, including 688 hours in space, with his lecture, “Free Fall! Flying In Space.” Bluford was one of 35 selected by NASA from a pool of thousands in 1979. Four years later, he became the first African American in space. Bluford didn’t hold back as he detailed all four of his Space Shuttle flights, including 76 different lab experiments he helped perform in Spacelab, his attempts at making sandwiches, and all of the quirks associated with daily life in zero gravity.
When he opened up for questions, people of all ages lined up behind the microphones placed on both sides of the auditorium. On the topic of Mars, Bluford said, “Humans are explorers; we want to get there because it’s there,” and that it may have to serve as a refuge from Earth, if action regarding environmental issues isn’t taken soon enough. When asked what it takes to become an astronaut, he explained that in order to be competitive, one should complete a Ph.D. in a science or engineering field, have experience in that field, have a private pilot license, be a certified scuba diver, be fluent in Russian, and have a nice personality with a balanced ego. He also stressed that there are other ways to contribute to space exploration through a variety of roles that extend far beyond being an astronaut, and that these roles are just as important as astronauts themselves.
Throughout the lecture and as a closing sentiment, Bluford claimed that he “made people pay [him] to have a good time,” a goal he urged the members of the audience to keep in mind throughout their education and careers.