On this date, September 18, 1980, Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez became the first Cuban citizen, first Latin American and first person of African ancestry to travel in space.
Tamayo Méndez was born in Guantánamo, Cuba on January 29, 1942. He graduated from the Air Force Academy and then became a pilot in the Cuban air force. He then became a lieutenant colonel and was chosen to be a part of the Soviet Union’s Intercosmos program. Tamayo Méndez went into space as a crew member of Soyuz 38. In space, Tamayo Méndez and fellow cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko conducted many experiments. Some of their experiments included trying to find the cause for space adaptation syndrome and research on the crystallization of sucrose in microgravity with Cuban sugar. When Tamayo Méndez returned, he was presented with several awards such as the Hero of the Republic of Cuba medal.