Spacecraft named after Bradley alumnus, first African American astronaut

Black History Month

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – A Bradley University alumnus is being remembered in an out of this world way.

Major Robert H. Lawrence Jr., the former Bradley student, is the first African American to be selected as an astronaut by any national space program. He is being remembered with the naming of a space station cargo capsule set to launch this Sunday: the 13th Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft. The spacecraft is christened as the “S.S. Robert H. Lawrence,” and is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station.

Lawrence was a 1956 chemistry graduate of Bradley. In December 1967, following his appointment to the Manned Orbital Laboratory program, Lawrence was killed while training another pilot in a Lockheed F-104 jet at Edwards Air Force Base when the student crash-landed the plane.

Since 1988, Bradley has honored his legacy with the Robert H. Lawrence Endowed Lectureship. The Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. Memorial Scholarship at Bradley was established the same year of his death and in 1989 the Lawrence Conference Room was dedicated in Bradley’s Olin Hall, containing the Lawrence portrait by Wm. F. Hardin (’50).

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