Spacecraft honors Bradley University alum who was first African American astronaut

Spacecraft honors Bradley University alum who was first African American astronaut

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A spacecraft named after a Bradley University alumnus who was the first African American chosen as an astronaut is set to launch for the International Space Station on Sunday afternoon.

The S.S. Robert H. Lawrence Jr., a Cygnus spacecraft built by Northrop Grumman as a cargo resupply vehicle, honors the memory of the 1956 BU chemistry graduate who was killed during a 1967 jet flight in which he was training another pilot.

Lawrence had been set to take part in the Manned Orbital Laboratory program, which was canceled -- though elements of it resurfaced as part of the Skylab space research station.

The unmanned, robotic craft will carry material for research involving tissue culturing, bone loss and therapy using potentially bacteria-destroying phages, according to a NASA news release.

After the craft departs the space station, it's also set to perform further experiments examining "fire development and growth in different materials and environmental conditions, fire detection and monitoring, and post-fire cleanup capabilities." That's done after its deliveries to avoid danger to humans on the station.

Lawrence is also remembered on Bradley's campus through a memorial scholarship, an endowed lecture series and a conference room in the science building, Olin Hall.


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