Author Topic: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night  (Read 152110 times)

Offline Ares67

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #20 on: 05/23/2015 04:54 PM »
In 1977, the Air Force informed Guy Bluford that he needed to return to a flying job. “As an Air Force pilot, I needed to complete nine years of flying in the first eighteen years of service and I had only completed six years of flying,” he explains. “I needed another three years of flying in order to continue to receive my flight pay. So I started looking for a flying job in the Air Force. My flying background was primarily in tactical fighter aircraft and training aircraft. I wanted to return to the fighter pilot business with a job flying F-15 or F-16 aircraft. The Air Force wanted me to return as a T-37 instructor pilot.”

“While I iterated with the Air Force about what flying assignment I would eventually go to, I spotted an ad in the newspaper for the Space Shuttle Program. NASA was starting to look for astronauts to fly the Space Shuttle and they opened up the opportunities for scientists and engineers (i.e. mission specialist astronauts) to be astronauts. This looked like a great opportunity for me to fulfill my flying requirements in the Air Force, utilize my technical skills, and expand my technical knowledge all at the same time. I could do it as a NASA astronaut. What a deal! So I applied in 1977. In the meantime, I was still writing my dissertation with plans on completing the document by the end of 1978.”

“Although I knew that there was going to be a lot of competition to be a NASA astronaut and that the possibility of selection was small, I decided to apply anyway. In 1977, I submitted my paperwork for the astronaut program within the Air Force. The Air Force had established a selection board and they were collecting applications from officers interested in the NASA astronaut program. More than 1,000 officers applied for both the astronaut pilot and mission specialist jobs. I applied for both positions. The Air Force selected approximately 100 officers, for consideration as NASA pilots and NASA mission specialist astronauts. I was selected as one of those officers for the NASA mission specialist position.”

“The head of the Air Force selection board was Tom Stafford, and I still remember a conversation I had with Tom Stafford many years later about my astronaut application. He said, ‘Yeah, I ran that board and I remember seeing your application.’ He was impressed with my credentials and thus supported my application to be an astronaut. After the selection process was completed, the Air Force sent our names to NASA to be included with the applicants from the Army, Navy, Marines and eight thousand civilians. So through the summer of 1977, I sat around wondering if I was going to make it or not.”

“As NASA proceeded through the selection process, they started sending out notices to people who were eliminated in the competition. They also, in the middle of 1977, started selecting astronaut finalists in groups of twenty. NASA selected ten groups of twenty astronaut finalists and asked them to come to the Johnson Space Center for a week of physicals and interviews. Because NASA hadn’t selected any astronauts in over ten years and because this new group of astronauts would include both women and minorities, there was a lot of public interest in the selection process. The requirements to be an astronaut were not limited to only test pilots, but were open to scientists and engineers. NASA was looking for not only astronaut pilots but also astronaut mission specialists. So in the summer of 1977, there was a lot of public interest and newspaper articles highlighting those selected as astronaut finalists.”

“On Wednesday, in mid October, 1977, while on government travel in Washington, D.C., I was notified by NASA that I had been selected as an astronaut finalist. Someone from the Johnson Space Center tried to contact me in Washington, D.C. They arranged to have a note left on my hotel room door asking that I contact them. I returned their call that evening and was notified that I had been selected as an astronaut finalist and that NASA wanted me to report to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Sunday. My travel plans had me returning to Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday and I wasn’t sure that I could get permission from my boss to travel to Houston on that Sunday. I indicated to the caller that I would have to check with my boss before I could commit to traveling to Houston on such short notice. On Thursday, I spoke with my boss, Colonel McKelvey, who gave me his permission to go on such short notice and he arranged for my travel. I confirmed with NASA my travel plans, picked up my tickets on Saturday, and flew to Houston on Sunday. It was my first trip to Houston.”

Guy continues, “When I arrived in Houston, I discovered I was in the ninth group of astronaut finalists. There were quite a few members of that group that were eventually selected for the astronaut program. I think Judy Resnik, John Fabian, Terry Hart, and Steven Nagel were in that group. From what I later learned, there were more astronauts candidates selected from that group than from any other astronaut finalist group.”

“During that week in Houston, we all received thorough physicals and interviews with two psychiatrists. We were briefed on the Space Shuttle Program and we got to meet some of the current astronauts. It was an exciting experience. During that week, NASA did not disclose any information on how we were doing and if we passed or failed the physical. NASA also promised not to reveal the results of our physicals to our parent armed services. This was done as a protection to the military pilots. Since my Air Force flight physical was scheduled in November, I asked NASA to notify the Air Force if I passed my annual flight physical to preclude my taking two physicals in a short period of time. NASA eventually did that in November and I found out that I passed both the Air Force and the NASA astronaut physicals. During that week, I was also impressed with the competition and I knew that NASA would have no difficulty finding the type of talent they were looking for to serve as NASA astronauts.”

“One of the nicest experiences during that trip was the opportunity to meet NASA astronauts,” Guy explains. “I had never met any astronauts and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with John Young, T.K. Mattingly, Mike Collins, Vance Brand, and Alan Bean. I found all of them easy to talk to and they were all highly dedicated to the NASA space program. I was particularly impressed with the opportunity to talk with Joe Engle, an X-15 test pilot.”

“During the visit to the Johnson Space Center, we were required to write an essay on why we wanted to be an astronaut. Our essays were read by a number of senior managers just before we were interviewed. The interviews were conducted in a conference room by a group of 10 to 15 people. The group included Mr. George Abbey, Vance Brand, Carolyn Huntoon, Joe Atkinson and many others. I did not know any of these individuals nor did I know what roles they played in the selection process. I was asked why I wanted to be an astronaut, and they asked me about my academic performance at Penn State University. I explained how I got interested in airplanes and spacecraft as a kid and why I decided as a youngster that I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. It was a nice, friendly conversation with me doing most of the talking.”

“As the week came to an end, I had no idea how I did. I was impressed with the NASA organization, and I found myself even more interested in participating in the space program. I had wanted to speak with the NASA engineers on the aerodynamic characteristics of the Space Shuttle during my visit to Houston; however, I found very little time for that. It was a great experience, and I was hopeful that I would eventually be one of the thirty-five finalists out of two hundred to be selected for the astronaut program.”


Offline Ares67

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #21 on: 05/23/2015 04:56 PM »

Offline Ares67

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #22 on: 05/23/2015 04:58 PM »
JOY AND SORROW

Guy Bluford tells us about becoming one of the Thirty-Five New Guys, “In January, 1978, NASA announced their selection of the astronauts for the eighth astronaut class. I heard about the announcement over the radio as I drove to work one Monday morning. I assumed that I had not been selected for the program when I heard the news. I made the assumption that NASA had already notified the finalists of their selection, and they were about to make the selection public. However, after arriving in the office, I received a call from Mr. George Abbey, who informed me that I had been selected. Mr. Abbey was head of the Flight Crew Operations Directorate (FCOD) at JSC. He told me not to divulge my selection to anyone until after NASA made the announcement to the press at 12:00 EST that day. I later discovered that NASA had called all two hundred finalists that morning and told them of their decision. Unfortunately, January was a bittersweet month for me. My mother had called me earlier in the month and told me that she was ill and that the doctors had given her only six months to live. As promised, I kept the announcement to myself, except for calling my wife to let her know of NASA’s decision.”
 
“I also had an interesting problem. I was still writing my dissertation and I had given myself until the end of the year to complete the document. NASA wanted me in Houston in July and thus I had to expedite the writing. I later learned that both Sally Ride and Kathy Sullivan were also in the same situation with their PhD dissertations. I defended my research and completed my dissertation in June of 1978 just before I left for my new assignment as a NASA astronaut.”

“As a matter of fact, we sold our house in Dayton and the family left for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in early June while I remained behind to finish up the dissertation. I eventually completed the document in late June, made six or seven copies of it, dropped it off on my dissertation advisor’s desk one Sunday evening, and left for Philadelphia to pick up the family. Although I had worked on the dissertation at nights and on the weekends, while serving as Branch Chief, I had a lot of support from AFIT and the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory in completing the project. I considered, earning a PhD from AFIT, one of the many crowning achievements of my Air Force career.”

“I went to Philadelphia and picked up the wife and kids and we drove down to Houston, where we had a house waiting for us. The wife and I had gone to Houston in April of 1978 and purchased a home and it was ready for us when we arrived in July.” – Guy Bluford’s wife, Linda, got a job as an accountant with an oil company. Their sons, Guion and James, enrolled in local high schools. “I wasn’t in Houston more than a week when I got a letter in the mail from AFIT indicating that my dissertation had been accepted and that I had completed all the requirements for my PhD degree. That was a great moment, since I had been working on the project for more than two years.”

“In February of 1978, NASA arranged to have our group come to Houston for a series of orientation meetings. During that visit, I got to meet my fellow astronaut candidates for the first time. It was a stellar group. NASA had selected fifteen test pilots and twenty mission specialists as part of the first class of astronauts dedicated to flying on the Space Shuttle. The class included six women and three African-Americans. We were slated to join approximately twenty-eight other astronauts who were already training in the astronaut office. We received a warm welcome by the people in Houston and during our visit we were measured for flight suits and T-38 flight helmets. I was thrilled to be there, and I was looking forward to working with my fellow astronauts as NASA continued to prepare for the first flight of the Space Shuttle.”

“In July, I reported to work in the Astronaut Office. Each of us in our class was assigned an office which we shared with a fellow astronaut on the third floor of Building 4. I shared my office with Don Williams, a Navy test pilot. Two weeks after beginning my training, my mother died. I knew she was proud of my accomplishments and my acceptance into the astronaut program. I promptly returned to Philadelphia for the funeral and to help close out her estate.”

“During the first year of training, I worked with Bob McCall, the artist, to develop a patch that represented our class. Bob had designed the flight patch for STS-1 and I asked him to do the same for our class. He came up with a design which highlighted the Space Shuttle, the thirty-five members of our class and 1978, the year that we arrived in Houston.” According to Guy Bluford, there was no special symbolism in the design. It was a just patch that was designed to represent the first class of astronauts hired specifically to fly on the shuttle.

“As we trained as AsCans, there was a lot of activity going on in the Astronaut Office. There were more requirements for astronauts then there were astronauts to fill them. It became very apparent that the Astronaut Office needed the AsCans as soon as possible to support the flight preparation for the first Space Shuttle flight. After one year of training, John Young, head of the Astronaut Office, declared that we were astronauts and we were given our silver astronaut pins. Thus we began to support the efforts in the Astronaut Office full time.”


(Jim Haskins/Kathleen Benson, “Space Challenger,” Carolrhoda Books, 1984; Michael Cassutt, “Who’s Who in Space,” Macmillan 1999; J. Alfred Phelps, “They Had a Dream: The Story of African American Astronauts,” Presidio Press 1994; Bert Vis, “Shuttle Astronaut Group Patches,” Spaceflight, Vol. 42, Oct. 2000; Guion Bluford JSC Oral History project interview, Aug. 2, 2004; The Pennsylvania Society’s Guion Bluford documentary, written by James Kreider – edited)


Offline Ares67

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #23 on: 05/23/2015 04:59 PM »
Space is Black

“Chuck, Bobby Kennedy wants a ‘colored’ in space. Get one into your course!”

- General Curtis E. LeMay, USAF chief of staff, as quoted by J. Alfred Phelps


“The first Negro has been selected for possible participation in future U.S. manned space flights, it was disclosed yesterday. He is Air Force Captain Edward J. Dwight, Jr., of Kansas City, Kansas, who is among 14 new candidates chosen for the Air Force’s aerospace research pilot program at Edwards Air Force Base, California.”

- Fred Ferris, “First Negro Designated Space-Flight Candidate,” The Washington Post, March 31, 1963


(Based on J. Alfred Phelps’ book “They Had a Dream”)


NOT THE FIRST

Guy Bluford was not the first black American having the dream of becoming an astronaut. In “Who’s Who in Space” Michael Cassutt explains, “U.S. President John F. Kennedy believed that NASA should select an African-American astronaut and, through Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the President’s brother, the Air Force and Navy were encouraged to find a suitable candidate. The search resulted in the enrollment of 28-year-old Air Force Captain Edward Dwight in the Aerospace Research Pilot’s School in 1962.”

“Dwight had entered the Air Force in 1953, eventually logging over 2,000 hours of flying time in jet fighters while also doing a two-year tour as a B-57 pilot. He held a degree in aeronautical engineering. Though his qualifications for ARPS were minimal, Dwight managed to graduate. When submitted to NASA as a candidate, for the 1963 group, however, Dwight was not selected,” says Cassutt.

NASA chose two of Dwight’s ARPS classmates instead: Theodore Freeman, who died in a T-38 jet crash at Ellington AFB on October 3, 1964, and David Scott, who eventually commanded the Apollo 15 mission in 1971 – accompanied by LMP James Irwin, who had been in that same test pilot class; he was selected by NASA in April 1966.


SPACE RACE

“Edward Joseph Dwight, Jr., looked to the stars despite the obstacles facing him. Others savored space, could he not expect to fulfill his dreams?”

- J. Alfred Phelps, author of “They Had a Dream” (1994)


J. Alfred Phelps gives us some historical background information: “In 1962, news of the accomplishments of American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts filled front pages and the airwaves as the space race heated up between the superpowers. Dwight, caught up in all the excitement, began dreaming of joining the astronauts’ ranks… But it was a difficult time to be black in America and aspire to reach the stars.”

“The nation roiled with racial unrest. A little more than six years before, seamstress Rosa Parks had challenged the bus segregation ordinance in Montgomery, Alabama, releasing racial furies. In 1956, 101 Southern congressmen called for and got massive resistance to the Supreme Court’s desegregation rulings. National Guardsmen, called out by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus in 1957, barred nine black students from Little Rock’s Central High School. Blacks challenged restaurant segregation in Greensboro, North Carolina, with lunch counter sit-ins in 1960. And in July 1962, it took three thousand federal troops to ensure James Meredith’s safe admission to the University of Mississippi.”

“All of this caused a chilling stir deep in the hearts of desegregationists as they responded to the ominous muttering of the phrase, ‘We don’t want no coon on the Moon!’ But Edward Joseph Dwight, Jr., ignored the blatant discord and submitted his application for test pilot and astronaut training.” Phelps continues, “While Dwight underwent his baptism of fire at Edwards, space exploration picked up speed. On 15-16 May (1963), astronaut L. Gordon Cooper orbited the Earth twenty-two times in his Mercury-Atlas 9 vehicle. On 14 and 16 June, the Russians launched Vostok 5 and 6, orbiting the planet 81 and 48 times, respectively, with cosmonaut Valentina V. Tereshkova, the first woman in space, aboard the latter spacecraft.”


Offline Ares67

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #24 on: 05/23/2015 05:03 PM »
THE DWIGHT AFFAIR

“…the truth is that I lack the college education to qualify as a NASA astronaut. It so happens I could care less. But if I did care a lot, there isn’t a damn thing I could do about it, because the regulations say I must have a college degree… Captain Dwight may care a lot about becoming an astronaut. Well, he gave it his best shot and he just didn’t make it…”

- Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager (born 1923), who in 1947 became the first test pilot to have travelled faster than sound


J. Alfred Phelps explains, “Although Ed Dwight grew up in a family that stressed excellence and education, his hard work and many accomplishments were not enough to get him to the stars. Although he had survived ten years of stiff competition as an Air Force officer, logged more than 2,000 hours in the air as a jet bomber pilot, and had trained other pilots, he was unable to clear the last hurdle – the dogged racism that continued to hound the armed services and NASA.”

Phelps tells us that the famous test pilot Colonel Charles “Chuck” Yeager, who at the time headed the ARPS at Edwards AFB, held rather a dim view of Dwight’s abilities:

”In those days,” Yeager said, “there were still comparatively few black pilots in the Air Force, but Dwight sure as hell didn’t represent the top of the talent pool.” Yeager remembered black pilots with whom he had flown (e.g., Emmett Hatch and Eddie LaVelle), but “guys of their quality didn’t apply for the course. Dwight did!”…  Yeager later maintained that Dwight's abilities were so lacking "we set up a special tutoring program to get him through the academics, as I recall, he lacked the engineering (background) that the other students had."…Yeager further observes that Dwight worked hard, as did his tutors, but adds that "Dwight just couldn't hack it... didn't keep up in flying." Yeager claims to have worked with Dwight on his flying, but he noted that "our students were flying at levels really beyond his experience. The only prejudice against Dwight," Yeager recalls, wagging a literary finger, "was the conviction that he was not qualified to be in the school" in the first place.

“Yet Dwight,” states Phelps, “selected by the Air Force because of his record and educational background, must have come very close to the ‘top of the talent pool.’ If he didn’t, the service’s personnel selection process was mysteriously askew. Furthermore, because the search for a black pilot had been triggered by the President himself, the Air Force’s screening was undoubtedly thorough. Finally, there were 1,300 black Air Force officers on active duty at the time in the continental United States, many of whom were pilots. Others were overseas and within two years they represented just under two percent of all officers in the Air Force, the numbers were vastly greater than Yeager’s off-the-cuff assessment suggests.”

Ebony reporter Charles L. Sanders later claimed that ARPS commandant Chuck Yeager had not only put Edward Dwight’s professional abilities into question, but that he also – shortly before Dwight was to enter the high-powered Phase II postgraduate course dealing primarily with aerospace research – had called him into his office, ordered him to sit down and “subjected him to a line of questioning that dripped with racism.” This is how J. Alfred Phelps describes this alleged confrontation:

”Who got you into this school?” Yeager supposedly wanted to know. “Was it the NAACP or are you some kind of Black Muslim out here to make trouble? I hear you’re a ‘Kennedy boy,’ so did President Kennedy send the word down that you’re supposed to go into space? Why in hell would a colored guy want to go into space anyway? As far as I’m concerned, there’ll never be one to do it. And if it was left to me, you guys wouldn’t even get a chance to wear an Air Force uniform!”

Chuck Yeager vehemently denied those allegations. Phelps writes, “He wanted to charge Dwight with insubordination, especially after Dwight had brought charges of racism against him and ‘couldn’t make them stick.’ But the Air Force ignored Yeager’s request for a court martial. It had already taken enough flak over the Dwight Affair.

‘Yeager continued to fume. He knew that in those days and times it had become “fashionable” for government agencies to “advertise themselves as equal opportunity employers.” The Air Force, Yeager said, had been that way with him from the start, and “I would never deny anybody else the chance to prove his worth, no matter who or what he is!” But what Dwight had done struck at the very core of Yeager’s being. Dwight had “called into question not only my professional integrity,” Yeager later wrote, “but most basic, (my) loyalty to the Air Force!” Yeager says he had experienced prejudice himself because of “his ways and accent.” There were, he said, those in the service who had pegged him as “a dumb, down-home squirrel shooter.’

“Despite his commandant’s attitude towards him, Dwight entered ARPS Phase II training in the summer of 1963. He took all the tests and underwent even more in-depth physical examinations,” writes Phelps. “There is little doubt that Colonel Yeager was Dwight’s personal devil at Edwards. But NASA made the actual selection, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where the agency stood on the issue of race when it announced the latest slate of astronauts in the fall of 1963:

’What part, if any, do genetics play in astronaut selection? Personnel records indicate that a man with brown hair and blue eyes may have an advantage in being selected an astronaut. There are 19 out of 30 with brown hair, seven blonds, two redheads, and one each with auburn and black hair. Sixteen of the group have blue eyes; eight brown; three green; and three hazel.’

“One can only wonder what Dwight – who had been notified earlier in the summer that the NASA selection committee did not believe he was ‘as highly qualified as the candidates selected to participate in the later phases of the program’ – would have thought had he read that NASA press release.”


Offline Ares67

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #25 on: 05/23/2015 05:04 PM »
THE PRESIDENT’S EDICT

“This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had equal chance to develop their talents. We cannot say to ten percent of the population that you cannot have that right; that your children can’t have the chance to develop whatever talents they have.”

- U.S. President John F. Kennedy, June 11, 1963


J. Alfred Phelps writes, “Kennedy learned during meetings with minority leaders and from other sources that, although segregation and discrimination had been outlawed in the armed forces by President Harry S. Truman more than a decade before, there was ample evidence minority discrimination persisted in the military services. The President, stung by the revelations, resolved to initiate steps to eliminate these sources of ‘hardship and embarrassment’ for servicemen and women.”

“President Kennedy wielded a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he had intelligently mobilized the black vote in order to ensure his election. On the other, he now pressed further, attempting to ensure equality for blacks in the military. It seemed providential for blacks aspiring to enter the space program, as the armed forces were the prime source of astronauts.”

Phelps continues, “The odds are that President Kennedy did not know to extent of the maelstrom he had unleashed.” He quotes an article by Charles L. Sanders in the June 1965 issue of Ebony:

’There were people out there (who thought) Kennedy didn’t understand that he wasn’t the king of the world versus president of the United States. When you appoint a king, then all your minions follow in lock step. (But) you can be president and there can be things going on (during) your watch and you don’t know how the system operates. You’re doing all the gracious things on the surface, passing all the edicts, all those laws, and at the end of the whole process you find out these people have taken your directions and, for their own benefit, (gone off) in their direction.’

“A little more than a month before Dwight’s class graduated at Edwards, whatever furies existed in America were unleashed,” writes Phelps. “President Kennedy was fatally shot in Dallas on 22 November, and his accused murderer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed shortly thereafter by a man named Jack Ruby. Any hope Dwight might have had of assistance from the White House evaporated like steam from a whistling tea kettle, and within days of the assassination he received orders ‘to get the hell outta there!’”

“Standing in the ranks with the fifteen other pilots completing ARPS Class IV at Edwards, Dwight listened to Gen. Bernard A Shriever, commander of the Air Force Systems Command, wax eloquently about their accomplishments and futures. While Dwight could take pride in his work at Edwards, he knew in his heart that he would never, ever fly in space,” says Phelps. “His dreams had been destroyed – if not by Colonel Yeager and NASA, then by an assassin’s bullet. He had been shut out of the astronaut business.”


BATTLE LINES

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)


“On 2 July 1964,” Phelps writes, “President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. The long-sought legislation forbade racial discrimination in most privately owned places of public accommodation and gave the Attorney General the authority to file civil suits on behalf of victims of discrimination. Voting discrimination was also outlawed, and a commission was created to ‘investigate alleged racial discrimination by employers and labor unions.’

“Despite the enactment of that historic legislation, riots erupted in the north that summer. When a fifteen-year-old youth was killed in New York City, riots broke out in Harlem and Brooklyn, and the violence soon spread to Rochester, Jersey City, and Philadelphia. That same year, the bodies of three young civil rights workers (two whites and a black) were found buried under an earthen dam in Mississippi, where they had been left after being murdered.”

“In 1965, the civil rights movement changed its tactics and began promoting voter registration. On 1 February, when protesters led by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, they were greeted with tear gas, bullwhips, cattle prods, and clubs. Black men, women, and children were beaten to the ground. Several days later, a sympathetic Unitarian minister from Boston was murdered. The federal government sought an injunction against Alabama to permit the march, and President Johnson told the Nation:

‘I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the dignity of democracy. I urge every member of both parties, Americans of all religions and of all colors, from every section of this country, to join me in that cause. At times, history and fate meet in a single time, in a single place, to shape a turning point in Man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.’

“The world paused, looking for long moments at Highway 82 in Alabama as whites and blacks marched and sang together behind a phalanx of federal troops and National Guardsmen. The summer of 1965 promised to be long and hot. Racial tension mounted and the nation’s attention focused on the predominantly black Watts area of Los Angeles, which seemed about to explode.”

Meanwhile, Captain Edward Dwight fought his own battles. Like most of his classmates at the ARPS, who hadn’t been chosen as astronauts or to serve on the school’s staff and therefore returned to their respective services for duty, he had received new orders from the Air Force. “Dwight later observed wryly that he was told he was being assigned to Germany as a liaison officer for that country’s then nonexistent space program,” says Phelps. “Incensed by the perceived slight, he refused to go. Soon after that he was assigned to a bomber test group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio – an assignment his fellow ARPS graduates thought was ‘the worst possible one a guy can get.’

Professionally, as well as personally, these were difficult times for Dwight. To make matters worse, while being stationed in Ohio, he and his family still encountered constant acts of vicious racism. But, as Phelps puts it, “his dreams of the stars – of going to the Moon and beyond – still burned brightly within him. He fought off the temptation to run and hide and resolved to keep fighting for redress.” – And then, in June 1965, “Charles Sanders’ article about the injustices suffered by Ed Dwight exploded in the pages of Ebony first. Newspapers blossomed with the news about Dwight’s failure to become an astronaut. The story was a hot one, linked as it was to the racial tension that plagued the country.”

Faced with an ensuing debate whether or not Dwight had been eliminated from the space program because he was black, NASA issued this statement: “If he was not selected as an astronaut, it does not mean he was not qualified. It means that someone more qualified was selected ahead of him.”

Phelps states, “As usual, none of this was lost on the Russians, who first profusely congratulated the United States on the success of the Gemini 4 spaceflight,” which had put the U.S. into the business of walking in space, “then took the opportunity to criticize America for allowing racial prejudice to ‘creep into the American space program.’ The Soviet news agency Tass revived Dwight’s charge against the Air Force ‘that he was rejected for astronaut duty because he is a Negro.’


THE WRONG APPROACH

“When we find (a woman or) Negro with the right qualifications, they’ll be selected – presently no Negroes (or women) have been found to be anywhere near qualified.”

- Astronaut Gordon Cooper (1927-2004), during a Nigeria visit in September 1965, as quoted by J. Alfred Phelps


When Ed Dwight read those comments made by just returned Gemini 5 astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., featured in a Baltimore Sun article on September 24, 1965, he saw red. Phelps explains, “After having gone through all that he had – and to a certain extent was still going through – Dwight was in no mood to countenance such a callous remark from the likes of L. Gordon Cooper or anybody else! On 30 September 1965, he sent a letter to President Johnson. The typewriter keys probably smoked as he churned out two and a half pages of single-spaced text. Dwight wasted little time on pleasantries, but instead got right to the heart of the matter:

‘…if it is true that Colonel Cooper did, in fact, make these statements, he did so as a representative of the United States government. I feel as a Negro American that this rationale is untenable and totally unacceptable. These statements are a direct affront to the American Negro citizen, and indirectly can have only harmful effects to our policy of good international race relations with the African countries.’

“Dwight added that he took

‘strong issue to Colonel Cooper’s implication that the American Negro is so backward and unqualified that he is incapable of performing space functions… I am fully qualified in all respects to perform spaceflight… It is not my intention to question government policy, but in light of the intense social upheaval in progress in this country, Colonel Cooper’s statement is a blight on Negro progress. He has demonstrated a lack of insight into the real Negro problem here and abroad. A man of his stature does not smack the Negro in the face with such a discouraging attitude, and then expect the Negro to have faith in the American way, and to exercise the drive and determination to excel. He could at least have exhibited a positive attitude. We, as a nation, can ill afford to alienate these black nations.’

Phelps writes, “Perhaps he thought that his letter to President Johnson complaining about L. Gordon Cooper’s indiscretion in Nigeria, in which Dwight reminded the chief executive of his qualifications, might still save the day. After all, he recalled, ‘They promised me a flight if I wouldn’t talk to the press.’ That was probably a pipe dream for the President was angered by the articles featuring Dwight’s pot shots at the Air Force alleging racial discrimination.”

“President Johnson was the wrong man to approach with mewling protestation, breast-beating, and foot-stomping. With LBJ, loyalty was everything. To attack the agency that fed one, in this instance, the Air Force, was a serious breach of loyalty in Johnson’s book. So it was that Captain Dwight and his career went right down the tube. President Johnson was already casting about for his own black astronaut. Dwight was perceived as damaged goods; he had become too closely associated with JFK in the public’s mind.”

“Furthermore, as far as the Air Force was concerned,” Phelps continues, “Dwight knew it was over… The Air Force, although realizing that its efforts to eliminate racism within its ranks weren’t perfect, had been the first military branch to fully integrate after President Truman issued his 1948 executive order to end segregation in the armed forces. Naysayers or not, the service was proud of its record as far as discrimination was concerned. Dwight had sullied the Air Force uniform.”

“Black officers like Col. Daniel ‘Chappie’ James, Jr., who later became America’s first black four-star general, were touting the Air Force and the progress it had made, insisting that excellence of performance was the ultimate guarantor of success in the military.”

Phelps quotes another black legend of American aviation history. “The late John ‘Mr. Death’ Whitehead, a member of the now famous band of African Americans nobody thought would fly during World War II – the Tuskegee Airmen – and a graduate of the experimental test pilots’ school at Edwards long before Dwight ever showed up, suggests that part of Dwight’s problem may well have been ‘his attitude.’ Whitehead said Dwight went about it the wrong way, that he beat himself. ‘Hell,’ Whitehead recalled, ‘Dwight wasn’t the first black man to attend the flight test center schools at Edwards! But we all got through without a problem.’

Ed Dwight resigned from the Air Force in 1966. To this day he refuses to believe, writes Phelps, “that he failed to become an astronaut because his class rank was simply too low. As far as he is concerned, it was racism and JFK’s untimely assassination… Perhaps the saddest commentary on the Dwight Affair may be that Dwight could have been the top man in his class with perhaps a little more effort on his part. The evidence suggests Dwight was certainly capable of it. But perhaps the knowledge that he was the ‘Kennedy boy (who) was going to make it, no matter what’ held him back.”


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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #26 on: 05/23/2015 05:06 PM »
AGAINST THE ODDS

“(Lawrence) proved, finally, what black people in this country have long known – that excellence has no color.”

- Ebony staff writer David Flores, eulogizing the late Major USAF Robert H. Lawrence, Jr.


Born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 2, 1935, he had received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, in 1956 and a PhD in nuclear chemistry from Ohio State University in 1965. A cadet commander of the Bradley ROTC, he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1956. After having received his wings at Webb AFB in Big Spring, Texas, and having completed training as a flight instructor at Craig AFB near Selma, Alabama, he was stationed at Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base near Munich, West-Germany, with an assignment as T-33 instructor pilot. When he returned to the U.S. in 1961, many new members of the Germany Air Force had learned their flying skills from him.

According to astronautmemorial.net, “It was at ‘Furstie’ after a fatal accident that he recommended changing the language of instruction from English to German. He made this suggestion on the grounds that flying at incredible speeds left little time for pilots to translate information from the language in which it had been delivered to their native language. Reasoning that if they were instructed in their native language reactions would be more automatic, permitting more rapid responses and perhaps avoiding tragedy.”

By 1967 he had logged over 2,500 flying hours, more than 2,000 of them in jet aircraft. “He entered the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, which led to his PhD,” adds Michael Cassutt in Who’s Who in Space, “and became a nuclear research officer at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.”

Since early 1961 he had submitted applications to NASA and had been rejected several times. But in June 1967, having just graduated from ARPS at Edwards, Major USAF Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., became the first black American selected as an astronaut candidate for the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL). 

Tragically, just a few months later, on December 8, 1967, Lawrence died in an F-104 “Starfighter” crash at Edwards. Michael Cassutt explains, “All MOL pilots, even those who had attended the Aerospace Research Pilot School, were enrolled in a six-month course at Edwards that included ‘Booming and zooming,’ flying zero-G arcs or simulating very high-speed spacecraft landings in a modified F-104. It was while ‘zooming’ that Lawrence crashed, ejecting too low for his parachute to open. Another pilot with him, Major Harvey Royer, ejected and lived.”

“Had he lived he would have been eligible for transfer to NASA as an astronaut in August 1969,” says Cassutt, “and would probably have gone into space aboard the shuttle.” According to J. Alfred Phelps, “NASA probably would have more readily accepted Lawrence. After all the bad press generated by the Dwight Affair it could not have afforded to do otherwise… Robert Lawrence’s death marked the end of minority participation in the astronaut program for a lengthy period,” says Phelps. “More than a decade would pass before NASA again seriously considered minority males and women for employment as astronauts and offered them a chance to make the cherished leap into space.”


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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #27 on: 05/23/2015 05:07 PM »
In January 1978 NASA introduced thirty-five new astronauts to the world, among them Air Force Majors Frederick D. Gregory and Guion S. Bluford, Jr., as well as Physicist Dr. Ronald E. McNair. Phelps writes, “That they were African American signified only snippets of reasons they had been chosen out of thousands to participate in the Space Shuttle program. It had to do with each of them, what they had become as men and as Americans. But because they were seen as America’s first three ‘official’ black astronauts, it was difficult at first to get their fellow countrymen to understand that. In a telephone interview, Fred Gregory said, ‘I would hate to think that I was chosen – or any of the women or minorities were chosen – because of tokenism. I think my qualifications were adequate – super – to be chosen.’


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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #28 on: 05/23/2015 05:08 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #29 on: 05/23/2015 05:09 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #30 on: 05/23/2015 05:10 PM »
Phelps adds, “Inspired by the trio’s accomplishments, another black man thought to make the grade despite initial doubts He was Marine, a 1968 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. A naval aviator with over a hundred missions into North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia… A near-graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland, Charles F. Bolden, Jr., had already overcome a boatload of obstacles in his life. Still, he doubted his chances for a career as an astronaut. Until then. According to Bolden, ‘I never had an interest, never had a legitimate interest in being an astronaut as a kid. I just figured that was impossible, so I didn’t even think about it…’ – It was indeed possible, however. Guy Bluford, Ron McNair, and Fred Gregory had already joined the hallowed ranks of U.S. astronauts. In a relatively short time, so would Charles Bolden.”


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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #31 on: 05/23/2015 05:12 PM »
“Thus began the saga of African Americans in the astronaut program,” says Phelps. “Its start would be considered by many as grossly inauspicious. But perhaps that has been the nature of the American experience throughout the twentieth century. The first black to sally forth into the American mainstream always seemed to catch hell. It was no different in the astronaut program. The difference was that many of the first black astronaut-selectees were warriors, fighter and bomber pilots who were trained to fly combat missions in Korea or had participated in air combat in Vietnam while that war still raged. Therein lies a story of minority ascension against the odds and into space itself.”


See also:

Edward J. Dwight, Jr.

http://www.eddwight.com/about/behind-scenes

http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/ed-dwight-39

Robert H. Lawrence, Jr.

http://www.astronautmemorial.net/lawrence.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Henry_Lawrence,_Jr.

African-American Civil Rights Movement

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African-American_Civil_Rights_Movement_(1954%E2%80%9368)


(J. Alfred Phelps, “They Had a Dream: The Story of African American Astronauts,” Presidio Press 1994; Michael Cassutt, “Who’s Who in Space,” Macmillan 1999 – edited)


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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #32 on: 05/23/2015 05:14 PM »
Ebony and Ivory

“Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms… If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”

- Eugene Wesley “Gene” Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek (1921-1991)


(By Mike Mullane)


The first year of our TFNG indoctrination was one of euphoria. At summer’s end the class hosted a party for the entire astronaut corps. The centerpiece of the entertainment was a skit that poked fun of the astronaut selection process, specifically the selection of the female and minority astronauts. The program starred Judy Resnik, Ron McNair, and some forgotten white guy.

A bed sheet was hung from the ceiling in front of a chair. Judy was seated with just her face protruding through a hole cut in the sheet. Behind the sheet Ron stood at her right and extended his arm through another hole. The effect was that Ron’s black arm appeared to be Judy’s. Through a left-side hole, the white TFNG extended his excessively hairy arm as if it were also Judy’s.

Clothing was pinned to the sheet to give the appearance the mutation was dressed. And what a mutation – a woman with one black and one white arm, an affirmative action wet dream. The skit continued as an “astronaut selection board” – fellow TFNGs, of course – interviewed this androgynous creature. All this time, the arm and hand movements, comically uncoordinated, brought howls of laughter. The final question posed was “What makes you qualified to be an astronaut?” With ebony-and-ivory arms waving, Judy replied, “I have some rather unique qualifications.” At that, the laughter hit max-Q.

The skit obviously predated political correctness. For astronauts to perform such satire in today’s America would have Jesse Jackson sprinting to the NASA Administrator’s office with a gaggle of lawyers in tow.

(Mike Mullane, “Riding Rockets,” Scribner 2007 – edited)


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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #33 on: 05/23/2015 05:15 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #34 on: 05/23/2015 05:17 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #35 on: 05/23/2015 05:17 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #36 on: 05/23/2015 05:19 PM »
Creatures of the Night

“I recognized the importance of it, but I didn’t want it to be a distraction for my crew. We were all contributing to history and to our continued exploration of space.”

- Guy Bluford, talking about being America’s first black astronaut


“I’m just personally delighted to be back in line to get another flight on this magnificent flying machine that we have,” Commander Richard Truly said at the outset of the news conference held at Johnson Space Center on April 29, 1982, which was to introduce the then four-man STS-8 crew to the world. They had been officially announced only ten days earlier. “I’m also very honored to fly with three real professionals of the newer group of astronauts that we selected in 1978. They’re three topnotch people; they’ve done extremely important jobs in the first flights, in support of the first flights of the Space Shuttle. And they each well deserved to get an early flight, and I’m pleased to be with them.”

Those feelings were reciprocal, as STS-8 pilot Dan Brandenstein explained several years later, “It was a good crew. Dick Truly had been around a long time and was a good commander and taught us a lot. Everybody had their strengths and their area of expertise, and you focused on those and shared your experience and your wisdom with the other folks, and we got the job done.”


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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #37 on: 05/23/2015 05:20 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #38 on: 05/23/2015 05:22 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS-8 – In the Dark of the Night
« Reply #39 on: 05/23/2015 05:23 PM »
And that job, due to mission goals and orbital mechanics, included launching and landing the shuttle in the dark – “pretty early in the program to try something like that,” as Brandenstein commented. Only once before NASA had launched a manned mission during the night – and that had been the final moonshot, Apollo 17, in December 1972. So Challenger’s first nocturnal lift-off made the STS-8 crew – joined by six rats, unofficially named Eenie, Meanie, Miney, Moe, Larry and Curley – the Space Shuttle program’s first “Creatures of the Night.”

Apart from being expected to show that they had the “Rat Stuff,” the little “Original Six” rodents also served to generate the kind of puns one might have expected. There was, for instance, the fictitious biography on the astrorats which detailed the diverse histories of such newcomers as Eenie, who was born on a merchant marine ship, graduated from Ratcliffe College with a PhD in animal husbandry and eventually got into the astrorat program after reading about it in the paper.

Then there was Miney, who graduated with honors from Rat Point, his father having been a colonel in the Army’s Rat Patrol. Moe had worked at the Kraft Great American Cheese Research Laboratory before being selected by NASA, while Curly came in with a degree from Ratsselaer Polytechnic, and Meanie was selected by virtue of illustrious studies at Ratre Dame…


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