Pennsylvania

Guion S. Bluford, America's First African-
American Astronaut in Space


Guy Bluford was born in West Philadelphia on November 22, 1942. He received his Bachelor of science in Aerospace Engineering from Pennsylvania State University. After college, Bluford entered the Air Force as a pilot, flying 144 missions over Vietnam. After the Vietnam war, he received a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in laser physics. Bluford joined NASA in August 1979 and became the first NASA African-American in space in 1983. His technical assignments have included working with the Remote Manipulator System, Spacelab-3 experiments, space shuttle systems, and verifying flight software. Before retiring from NASA, Bluford became a veteran of four shuttle flights as mission specialist and flight engineer, including the third flight of the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.

The Contract Air Mail Act of 1925 - Kelly Air Mail Act

By the mid 1920s, the Post Office mail fleet was flying 2.5 million miles and delivering 14 million letters annually. Traditionally, the

Guion “Guy” Bluford

Dr. Guion S. Bluford, Photo courtesy of NASA

On Challenger's middeck, Mission Specialist (MS) Guion "Guy" Bluford, restrained by harness and wearing blood pressure cuff on his left arm, exercises on a treadmill. Bluford was NASA's first African-American astronaut in space. Before retiring from NASA in 1993, Bluford became a veteran of four shuttle flights as mission specialist and flight engineer, including the third flight of the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.

Aviation Firsts Logo

Post Office had used private companies for the transportation of mail. However, once the feasibility of airmail was firmly established, the government moved to transfer airmail service to the private sector by way of competitive bids. The legislative vehicle for the move was the 1925 Contract Air Mail Act, commonly referred to as the Kelly Act after its chief sponsor, Rep. Clyde Kelly of Pennsylvania. It was the first major legislative step toward the creation of a private U.S. airline industry. Winners of the initial five contracts were National Air Transport (owned by Curtiss Aeroplane Co.), Varney Air Lines, Western Air Express, Colonial Air Transport, and Robertson Aircraft Corporation. National and Varney would later become important parts of United Airlines. Western would merge with Transcontinental Air Transport to form Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA). Robertson would become part of the Universal Aviation Corporation, which in turn would merge with Colonial, Southern Air Transport and others to form American Airways. Juan Trippe, one of the original partners in Colonial, would later pioneer international air travel with Pan Am, a carrier he founded in 1927 to transport mail between Key West, FL, and Havana, Cuba. Many of these airlines also started carrying passengers on flights. In 1926, airlines in the U.S. carried 6,000 passengers. By 1930, passengers flying on U.S. airlines soared to 400,000.