November 22

November 22, 1989 – Colonel Frederick D. Gregory

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Frederick D. Gregory

United States Air Force Colonel Frederick Drew Gregory became the first African American Commander of a space shuttle mission on November 22, 1989. Gregory is the nephew of famed blood plasma researcher, Dr. Charles Drew. Colonel Gregory commanded the STS-33 on the orbiter Discovery for five days. The STS-33 traveled 2.1 million miles over the five days in space. Gregory was born on January 7, 1941 in Washington, DC. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the United States Air Force Academy in 1964 and received a masters degree in Information Systems from George Washington University in 1977.

STS-33 crew

STS-33. Photographed from left to right are Kathryn C. Thornton, Mission Specialist 3; Manley L. (Sonny) Carter, Mission Specialist 2; Frederick D. Gregory, Commander; John E. Blaha, Pilot; and F. Story Musgrave, Mission Specialist 1.

Gregory became a pilot and flew over 550 combat missions in Vietnam and was a test pilot for the Air Force and NASA.  He has 6,976 hours flying time in more than 50 types of aircraft.  He was chosen in 1978 as an astronaut in the first class chosen for Space Shuttle Astronauts.  Gregory became the first African American to pilot a space craft.  After leaving the astronaut program, Gregory eventually became NASA Deputy Administrator.  He left the NASA program in October of 2005.

Astronaut candidates Ronald McNair, Guion Bluford, and Frederick Gregory

Astronaut candidates Ronald McNair, Guion Bluford, and Frederick Gregory (May 16, 1978)