America’s First Black Astronaut Candidate Soars To Space 60 Years Later, Becomes Oldest Person In Cosmos

Ed Dwight, 90, who became America’s first Black astronaut candidate under John F. Kennedy’s presidency has finally made it to outer space more than 60 years later.

He is the oldest person to do so.

Dwight was a part of the six-person crew that flew into space as part of Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin, according to the Associated Press. The spaceship launched from West Texas to the edge of space on May 19—Blue Origin’s first flight since the suborbital New Shepard rocket was grounded in 2022.

Dwight’s history-making space orbit came decades after Kennedy and the U.S. Air Force supported his candidacy for NASA’s early astronaut corps. But despite the recommendation, Dwight never made it to NASA’s 1963 class.

At the time, NASA wasn’t accepting Black astronauts and didn’t start until 1978. Guion Bluford became the first African American in space in 1983. The Soviets launched the first Black astronaut, Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez, a Cuban of African descent, into space in 1980.

Dwight finally received his “life-changing experience” after embarking on the 10-minute flight that skimmed through space and offered the six passengers a few minutes of being weightless.

“I thought I really didn’t need this in my life,” Dwight said after exiting the rocket. ”But, now, I need it in my life….I am ecstatic.”

The short flight helped Dwight break Star Trek actor William Shatner’s 2021 record as the oldest person in space. He was joined by four business entrepreneurs from the U.S. and France and a retired accountant who paid undisclosed amounts to board the capsule. Dwight’s seat was sponsored in part by the nonprofit Space for Humanity.

After being turned down by NASA, Dwight continued in the military until 1966. He worked for IBM and launched a construction company. In 1970, he earned a master’s degree in sculpting and created pieces that focus on Black history and serve as memorials and monuments across the country.

A few of his pieces even flew into space before he did.

RELATED CONTENT: Ed Dwight, First Black Astronaut, Set To Soar Anew With Blue Origin’s New Shepard-25 Mission

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