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Ed Dwight, America’s first black astronaut candidate, finally flew into space 60 years later on a Blue Origin capsule with Jeff Bezos’ rocket company. At 90 years old, Dwight experienced weightlessness during the roughly 10-minute flight, calling it a life-changing experience. This flight made Dwight the oldest person to go into space, breaking the record previously set by William Shatner. Blue Origin’s launch marked its return to crewed missions after a hiatus following a 2022 accident.

Dwight, originally an Air Force pilot, was championed by President John F. Kennedy as a candidate for NASA’s astronaut corps in 1963 but was not selected for that class. Despite this setback, Dwight pursued a successful career as a sculptor in Denver. The ticket prices for the flight were not disclosed, with Dwight’s seat being partially sponsored by the nonprofit Space for Humanity. He was joined on the flight by four business entrepreneurs from the US and France and a retired accountant.

NASA did not select black astronauts until 1978, with Guion Bluford becoming the first African American in space in 1983. Prior to this, the Soviets had launched the first black astronaut, Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez, a Cuban of African descent. Dwight’s journey into space represents a significant milestone, especially considering that it took decades for black astronauts to receive opportunities to fly with NASA or private space companies. The flight was the seventh time that Blue Origin has flown space tourists, demonstrating the company’s commitment to advancing commercial space travel.

Dwight expressed immense joy and gratitude following his spaceflight, remarking that while he initially thought he didn’t need the experience in his life, it had become something he now values greatly. The short duration of the flight did not diminish the significance of the moment for Dwight, who had made inroads into aerospace history as a pioneering black astronaut candidate. The successful completion of the mission after Blue Origin’s temporary grounding due to an accident in 2022 marked a return to form for the company and its commitment to safety in spaceflight.

The camaraderie among the passengers on the Blue Origin flight highlighted the diverse backgrounds of those who seek to venture into space. With participants from both sides of the Atlantic and a range of professional backgrounds, the group represented a cross-section of society united by a shared desire to experience space travel. Dwight’s participation in the flight underscored his resilience and determination to fulfill his dream of going into space, even after facing initial setbacks in his career. As commercial space tourism continues to expand, more opportunities may arise for individuals of different backgrounds to explore the cosmos.

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