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Conference to feature first African American astronaut to travel to space

  • Guion Bluford's keynote presentation will take place February 16.

Posted on January 16, 2018

A two-day symposium hosted by Grand Valley and Grand Rapids Public Museum will celebrate space exploration and feature Guion "Guy" Bluford, a retired NASA astronaut who was the first African American to travel to space.  

The conference, "Roger That! A Celebration of Space Exploration in Honor of Roger B. Chaffee," will take place February 16-17 at the DeVos Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. Roger B. Chaffee was an astronaut and Grand Rapids native who died during testing on Apollo I in 1967. 

Guion Bluford's keynote presentation will take place February 16 from 6-7 p.m. in the Loosemore Auditorium at the DeVos Center. In 1983, Bluford became the first African American astronaut to fly in space when he was part of a mission aboard NASA's Space Shuttle Challenger. He is also an aerospace engineer and retired U.S. Air Force officer and fighter pilot. He flew into space four times during the shuttle program. 

The free conference is open to the public and faculty and students are encouraged to attend. The conference will kick-off with a presentation, "Art/Space: NASA Space Art Program and Beyond," by Grand Valley illustration professors Durwin Talon and Guin Thompson, followed by breakout sessions featuring a variety of science, art and society topics related to space exploration. The deadline to register is February 11 at

Additional events: 

• On February 17, the Grand Rapids Public Museum will host several events, including another presentation by Bluford at 11 a.m. Space-themed activities will be available for kids and adults.

• A student design competition will take place for fifth- to eighth- grade students. Winners will be announced February 17 by Guion Bluford.  

• Students from Grand Rapids area schools will take field trips to Grand Valley and GRPM. Click here for information about arranging field trips

• A limited number of seats are available for a special dinner in Bluford’s honor following his keynote. Dinner ($20) will include a musical presentation and admission to a show at the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium. Click here for more information about the special dinner

The conference is organized by Grand Valley, Grand Rapids Public Museum and the Roger B. Chaffee Scholarship Fund. It is supported, in part, by NASA's Michigan Space Grant Consortium. 

For more information about the conference, visit or email For more information about GRPM events, visit