Black in Space: Breaking the Colour Barrier – Smithsonian

Smithsonian’s Black in Space: Breaking the Colour Barrier explores the race between the US and the Soviet Union to put the first black astronaut in space

Everyone’s heard of the space race, but in the late 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, the two super-powers were locked in another fierce contest – to be first to put a black astronaut into space, as we see in Smithsonian’s Black in Space: Breaking the Colour Barrier.

This documentary, narrated by David Harewood, recalls this forgotten chapter, and reveals how America’s issues with racial discrimination ended up hampering its efforts of achieving diversity in the skies.

We hear from Cuban Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, who on 18 September 1980 became the first black cosmonaut in space to achieve diversity as part of a Soviet mission with Yuri Romanenko.

Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez Black in Space: Breaking the Colour Barrier

Ground-breaking Cuban astronaut Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez today, as seen in Black in Space: Breaking the Colour Barrier on Smithsonian

We also hear from Guion Bluford (pictured top, centre), who on 30 August 1983, became the first African American in space when he set off on a six-day mission on the shuttle Challenger.

‘All of the responsibility of the task at hand is on your shoulders,’ says Arnaldo.

‘One mistake, anything that could make 
this mission fail, was going 
to be an extraordinary load.’

‘I recognised the historical significance 
of it,’ recalls Guion.

‘It was a fabulous ride.’

For full listings, see our TV Guide.

TV Times rating: ****

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