America’s first black astronaut, Air Force Maj. Robert Lawrence Jr., has finally got full honours Friday on the 50th anniversary of his death.
He was honoured in a ceremony that took place at Center for Space Education in Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The gathering included astronauts, NASA dignitaries, fellow Omega Psi Phi fraternity members, schoolchildren, and relatives of Lawrence and other astronauts who have died in the line of duty.
Robert Lawrence lost his life when his F-104 Starfighter crashed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He was just 32 during the accident. The incident took place just after six months after being selected as Air Force Astronaut.
The new instructor failed to pull the nose up on time causing the Jet to bounce and flip in flames. He was then killed when his seat ejected.
He was part of Manned Orbiting Laboratory , a classified military space program in the 1960s to spy on the Soviet Union.
He became Airforce pilot at age twenty-one and America’s first black astronaut in the space station at 32.
Br. Barbara Lawrence, Major Lawrence’s sister, was invited as the special guest speaker. She felt happy for his work and said he could have worked for a longer period.
“He was only interested in being given an opportunity to do what he could do, and the Air Force gave him that opportunity. He never was interested in being the first of anything. I’m only sorry that he didn’t get an opportunity to work a little bit longer, but I think his job was well done.”– she said.
Abrahamson, a retired Air Force lieutenant general said he impressed him with his smarts, flying ability and demeanor.
“One of his unique abilities was to be calm in every circumstance, even when his fellow pilot on the mission was going nuts,”– he added.
“Because of the fact that he was willing to risk his life to go out and make a difference for others, people are learning and having that opportunity today,” said Antonio Knox, the fraternity’s national president.