Today we celebrate the legacy of Maj. Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., the first African-American astronaut. When you scratch below the surface of Robert Lawrence’s story it’s almost bewildering what he accomplished in his lifetime – a lifetime that was tragically cut short at the young age of 32 during a flight instruction session of a F-104 Starfighter. (Robert was the instructor and the student pilot caused the accidental crash that led to Robert Lawrence’s death upon ejection from the cockpit post-crash and roll.)
To give you an idea of Robert’s accomplishments, he:
- Graduated high school at age 16, in the top 10 percentile
- Graduated from Bradley University at age 20 with a B.S. in Chemistry
- Became a U.S. Air Force pilot at age 21
- By age 25 was designated an instructor pilot for the T-33 aircraft
- At age 30, while working for the USAF, he earned a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry
- Logged over 2,500 hours of flight time for the USAF, before his untimely death, after which he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart
All that by age 32! Additionally Robert’s test flights contributed to the eventual development of the Space Shuttle.
That’s an almost unreal story.