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First African American Astronaut To Be Named After Spacecraft

Black History Month is extra special this year as honors for our many contributions will go beyond the realms of this planet and for the first time ever reach to the realms of outer space.

The nation’s first African American astronaut, Major Robert H. Lawrence Jr., will be remembered with the naming of a space station capsule that will launch into the International Space Station on Sunday, February 9.

Newly titled the “S.S. Robert H. Lawrence” the once 13th Northrop Gruman Cyngus will honor the legacy of Major Lawrence, a chemistry graduate from Bradley University.

Born in Chicago 1935, Major Lawrence graduated from high school at 16, eventually earned a PhD in chemistry and went on to a storied career as an accomplished officer and pilot in the U.S. Air Force. The first Black astronaut once flew test flights that gathered information on the landing performance of some of NASA’s space shuttle orbiters. Lawrence’s legacy has been solidified for the last 32-years, particularly after he was selected in June 1967 for the U.S. Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program. 

Unfortunately, six months later, Lawrence was tragically killed while aboard a F-104 Starfighter supersonic jet. With few details about his untimely death, his name and contributions went virtually unknown for years.

RELATED: Azellia White, Pioneering African-American Female Pilot, Dies At 106

Global aerospace and defense technology company, Northrop Gruman issued a statement saying, “Lawrence made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the space program. Although his career was cut short, he paved the way for future generations of aerospace pioneers of all races highlighting the need for diversity and inclusion across the industry.”

The S.S. Robert Lawrence will not only deliver supplies and equipment for the space station’s Expedition 61 and 62 crews, but will also support combustion experiments.

(Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

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