Maj. Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. (U.S. Air Force, Deceased)

From Chicago, Lawrence was selected by the Air Force for astronaut training in 1967. He died a short time later in the crash of an F-104 fighter jet while instructing a student pilot at the controls. Lawrence, who held a Ph.D. in chemistry from Ohio State University, never got to fulfill his dream, but he left behind a legacy for others who made the journey.

Captions by Richard Watkins

Col. Guion S. Bluford Jr. (U.S. Air Force, Retired)

The first African-American astronaut to blast off was Guy Bluford, aboard Challenger in 1983. Bluford, a Philadelphian with a degree in aerospace engineering from Penn State, was an accomplished fighter pilot who flew 144 missions in Vietnam before entering NASA's rigorous Astronaut Training Program. Bluford logged four shuttle missions.

Bernard A. Harris Jr., M.D.

Harris was the first African American to walk in space, during a joint mission with the Russians in 1995. Harris flew his first shuttle mission aboard Columbia in 1993. A Texan, Harris holds a degree in biology from the University of Houston and a medical degree from Texas Tech. 

Mae Carol Jemison, M.D.

With her journey aboard the shuttle Endeavor in 1992, Jemison was much celebrated as the first African-American woman in space. Born in Alabama and raised in Chicago, Jemison received a degree in chemical engineering from Stanford and doctorate in medicine from Cornell. She was a Peace Corps medical officer in Africa before joining NASA.

Col. Frederick Drew Gregory (U.S. Air Force, Retired)

Gregory was the first African American to pilot a shuttle (Challenger in 1985) and the first black commander of a shuttle, Discovery, in 1989. A graduate of the Air Force Academy, he has a master's in information systems from George Washington University. He flew an amazing 577 helicopter missions in Vietnam.

Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden Jr. (U.S. Marines, Retired)

Bolden is the first African-American administrator of NASA, appointed in 2009. From Columbia, S.C., he is a Naval Academy engineering grad with a master's from the University of Southern California. Bolden, who was a Marine Corps general, is a veteran of four shuttle missions and piloted Discovery during the launch of the Hubble telescope. Retired as an astronaut, Bolden was a commanding general in Operation Desert Thunder.

Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D. (Deceased)

McNair was the first African-American astronaut to die aboard a shuttle — in the Challenger disaster that killed a crew of seven. From Lake City, S.C., McNair was a Renaissance man who picked cotton as a youth but later obtained a degree in physics from North Carolina A&T and a doctorate from MIT. He carried a saxophone on Challenger to perform a solo for a record album.

Lt. Col. Michael Phillip Anderson (U.S. Air Force, Deceased)

Anderson was the second African-American astronaut to die when Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry into the earth's atmosphere just 16 minutes before landing on Feb. 1, 2006. Anderson was born in Plattsburg, N.Y., and grew up in Spokane, Wash. He held a degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Washington and a master's in physics from Creighton University.

Stephanie D. Wilson

Wilson is one of two African-American women who followed in the footsteps of Mae Jemison. A Bostonian, Wilson holds a degree in engineering science from Harvard and a master's in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas. She is a veteran of three shuttle missions.

Joan E. Higginbotham

Higginbotham is from Chicago. She has a degree in electrical engineering from Southern Illinois University and a master's in space systems from the Florida Institute of Technology. She has logged more than 300 hours in space.

Capt. Winston E. Scott (U.S. Navy, Retired)

The majority of U.S. astronauts have been military aviators like Scott, who is from Miami and is a former Navy pilot. Scott graduated from Florida State with a music degree and holds a master's in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. He is a veteran of two shuttle missions and three space walks.

Capt. Robert L. Curbeam Jr. (U.S. Navy, Retired)

Curbeam, from Baltimore, is a retired Navy pilot with a degree in aerospace engineering from the Naval Academy and a master's in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He is a veteran of three shuttle missions and seven space walks.

Col. Benjamin Alvin Drew Jr. (U.S. Air Force, Retired)

Drew, from Washington, D.C., is a retired Air Force colonel with dual degrees in astronautical engineering and physics from the Air Force Academy, plus a master's in aerospace engineering from Embry Riddle University. He has piloted 30 different aircraft and logged three shuttle missions.

Robert Lee Satcher Jr., M.D., Ph.D.

Doctors and scientists are likely candidates for astronaut training. Bobby Satcher is both. The Hampton, Va., native has a doctorate in chemical engineering from MIT and an M.D. from Harvard University. He has performed two space walks.

Leland D. Melvin (NFL Draft, 1986)

Melvin, from Lynchburg, Va., holds a chemical engineering degree from the University of Richmond and a master's in materials science engineering from the University of Virginia. He was selected by the Detroit Lions in the 1986 draft and selected by NASA for astronaut training in 1998. Leland, who flew two shuttle missions, is the associate administrator for education at NASA.