The Higher Education of NASA’s Latest Black Space Explorers

This month’s mission of the space shuttle Discovery was the first time that two African Americans were in space at the same time. Astronauts Robert L. Curbeam and Joan Higginbotham were among the seven-person crew which docked with the international space station.

Curbeam, an astronaut since 1994, has been in space twice before. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in aerospace engineering. He also holds a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. After successfully completing the Navy’s “Top Gun” school for fighter pilots, he became an instructor at the Naval Academy.

Higginbotham is the third black woman to fly in space. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. There, she earned a degree in electrical engineering. She also holds a master’s degree in engineering management and space systems from the Florida Institute of Technology.