African American Astronauts Seek to Add New Chapter to Black History

Chris Simkins, Voice of America News, February 2, 2010

February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada, a national observance that pays tribute to people and events that shaped the history of African Americans and Canadians. It’s also a time to educate people about the accomplishments of black people and their contributions to society. Last November, two African American astronauts soared into space while reaching new heights in the U.S. Space program.

Six astronauts rocketed toward orbit and the international space station. The mission had special meaning for Dr. Robert (Bobby) Satcher and Leland Melvin. They became the first African American men to fly together on a shuttle mission.

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“There is still a lot of firsts for us [black astronauts] to do and hopefully we will run out of those firsts pretty quickly because it is certainly my desire that one of the legacies that I would certainly like to leave behind is bringing in more African American astronauts,” said Bobby Satcher.

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“So many kids got see two African American men floating around in space.,” said Leland Melvin. “For a long time a lot of people were not given that opportunity. There were barriers. With dedication and perseverance anyone in this country can do anything they put their mind to and there are no limits.

In the early 1980s Ronald McNair helped to lift the racial barrier at NASA’s astronaut program. McNair and the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger died when the orbiter exploded shortly after liftoff. {snip}

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Back from their recent mission, Satcher and Melvin are trying to encourage black students to think about careers in the U.S. space program. Both astronauts stress the importance of education. Satcher has an extraordinary background, with advanced degrees in chemical engineering and medicine from some of the nation’s top universities. He tells teenagers the key to being an astronaut is having a solid background in math and science.

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Since 1983, there have been 20 black astronauts in the U.S. space program. {snip}

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