Several hundred people gathered at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Friday to commemorate Air Force Maj. Robert Lawrence Jr.

Lawrence was part of a classified military space program in the 1960s called the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, meant to spy on the Soviet Union. He died before ever flying in space when his fighter jet crashed on Dec. 8, 1967.

Astronauts at Friday's ceremony say Lawrence would have gone on to fly NASA's space shuttles. They say he was an inspiration to all African-American astronauts who followed him.

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