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Space Shuttle Challenger Blasting off into Sky

Source: Bettmann / Getty

His name is Frederick Gregory; and he is a Washington, D.C. native.  Early in life his father would take him to air shows at Andrews Air Force Base outside of his hometown – Andrews is where Air Force One is housed and taken care of.

His parents always encouraged him.  They once told him to do something tomorrow that was impossible to do yesterday, so he was always looking for a challenge.

Frederick Gregory’s family served as an inspiration as well: His great-grandfather, James Montgomery Gregory, was one of Howard University’s first graduates in 1872; and his uncle, Dr. Charles Drew, helped organize America’s first blood bank.

Gregory excelled in grade school and graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1964.

As a youngster, He sat in the front seat of an airplane piloted by Gen. Ben Davis of the Tuskegee Airmen.  It was that moment that changed his life.

After getting his flying credentials in 1965, He served as a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. But he was not living up to his potential.
He said – “I was a helicopter pilot, then a fighter pilot, then a test pilot. … And honestly, in my middle 30s, I got bored doing that, that’s when I saw an advertisement for the astronaut program.
He did just that — he became an Astronaut.
He flew aboard three Shuttle missions.   But when the time came for him to make history and to be the first Black to Pilot a Shuttle he just  smiled.   He said —  “I was traveling 17,500 miles per hour. It was fun.”   “We orbited earth within an hour and 30 minutes. At that speed, you can travel from New York City to London in five minutes.”

He was always amazed at the view from Space – seeing weather events that can only be seen from Space.

These days, Frederick Gregory lives in Annapolis and spends time traveling across the country speaking to classrooms about his journey from earth to space – and from a dream to the First Black Space Shuttle Pilot.

Doing what he’s doing – he says he still traveling 17,500 miles per hour.

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