In the 20-some years that people have been living aboard the International Space Station, its extended crew has never included a Black astronaut. Victor J. Glover, a Navy commander and test pilot who joined the astronaut corps in 2013, will be the first.
Since the International Space Station’s inception, it has seen numerous other milestones: hosting the world’s first space tourist, having its first female commander, and enduring the transition from U.S. astronauts being transported through NASA’s space shuttle program to using SpaceX’s spacecraft. But Mr. Glover’s achievement is notable for NASA, which has worked to spotlight the “hidden figures” in its history but has so far sent only 14 Black Americans to space out of a total of more than 300 NASA astronauts.
NASA first involved Black Americans in the astronaut program in the 1960s when Ed Dwight, an Air Force test pilot, became an astronaut candidate. But he never went to space. Guion S. Bluford Jr. became the first Black American in space in 1983 aboard the space shuttle Challenger; Mae Jemison was the first Black woman in 1992. Next year, he could be followed by Jeanette Epps, who would be the first Black woman to be part of an I.S.S. crew. She will fly aboard the first operational crewed trip of Boeing’s Starliner capsule.
“It is something to be celebrated once we accomplish it, and I am honored to be in this position and to be a part of this great and experienced crew,” he said. “And I look forward to getting up there and doing my best to make sure, you know, we are worthy of all the work that’s been put into setting us up for this mission. You know, unlike the election — that is in the past or receding in the past — this mission is still ahead of me. So, let’s get there, and I’ll talk to you after I get on board.”