DENVER — The NASA program has commissioned 321 astronauts since 1958. Of that number 20 have been Black.
Three of the 20 died in the line of duty.
- In 1967, Maj. Robert Lawrence died in an F-104 accident
- Dr. Ron McNair died aboard the Challenger Space Shuttle
- Michael Anderson died in the Columbia Shuttle crash
That means 17 are still alive. This weekend, at Wings Over the Rockies at Lowry, 14 of the 17 astronauts will be honored for their service in the NASA program.
“These are real American heroes,” said Capt. Willie Lee Daniels who just completed 37 years as a United Airlines pilot. “Our ‘Shades of Blue’ program is sponsoring the weekend reunion and gala, as a way to help raise some $250,000, which will be used to help kids of color get into the aviation industry.”
Friday at Cherokee Trail High School, Capt. Daniels brought Dr. Jeanette Epps—who is a current NASA Astronaut and Ret. Col. Frank Gregory to an assembly of STEM students. The outer-space pilots shared knowledge with the kids, letting them know about the opportunities that are out there, if they want to follow on a path to the stars.
“We didn’t know about the Tuskegee Airmen, even after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy,” said Col. Gregory. “While I thought we lit the torch, I found out we were just picking up the torch and carrying it forward!”
The path to NASA is tough, but one that can be followed. One youngster told us, “If they could make it, then so can I!”
Not even the sky is the limit for these youngsters if they choose to head into the—you guessed it—wild blue yonder!