Ed Dwight, 90, America’s first black astronaut, finally goes into space after 60 years

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VAN HORN, Texas — Ed Dwight, America’s first black astronaut, finally went into space after 60 years, flying with Jeff Bezos’ rocket company on Sunday.

Dwight was an Air Force pilot when President John F. Kennedy endorsed him as a nominee for NASA’s first astronaut corps. But he was not selected for the class of 1963.

Dwight, 90, experienced a few minutes of weightlessness with five other passengers on board the Blue Origin capsule as it soared through space for a flight that lasted about 10 minutes. He described it as a “life-changing experience.”

Ed Dwight, the first black American astronaut, finally reached space at the age of 90 aboard the Blue Origin capsule. BLUE ORIGIN / AFP via Getty Images
Dwight celebrates after landing at Blue Origin Base near Van Horn, Texas after spaceflight on May 19, 2024. BLUE ORIGIN / AFP via Getty Images

“I thought I didn’t need this in my life,” Dwight said shortly after emerging from the pod. But now I need him in my life.. I’m ecstatic.

The short flight from West Texas makes Dwight the new record holder for the oldest person in space — nearly two months older than “Star Trek” actor William Shatner when he ascended in 2021.

This was Blue Origin’s first crewed launch in nearly two years.

Dwight was considered a potential astronaut for NASA’s Class of 1963, but was ultimately not selected. Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Dwight and other crew members including (from left to right) Sylvain Chiron, Ken Hess, Gopi Thutakura, Mason Angel and Carol Schaller. BLUE ORIGIN / AFP via Getty Images

The company was grounded following an accident in 2022 in which the booster collapsed, but the capsule filled with experiments parachuted safely to Earth. Flights resumed last December, but there was no one on board.

This was Blue Origin’s seventh time flying tourists into space.

Dwight, a sculptor from Denver, was joined by four businessmen from the United States and France and a retired accountant.

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Dwight described the trip as a “life-changing experience.” BLUE ORIGIN / AFP via Getty Images

Their ticket prices have not been revealed. Dwight’s bench was sponsored in part by the nonprofit Space for Humanity.

Dwight was among the potential astronauts recommended by the Air Force and NASA. But he was not selected for the 1963 session, which eventually included Gemini and Apollo astronauts, including Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

NASA did not select black astronauts until 1978, and Guy Bluford became the first African American in space in 1983.

Three years earlier, the Soviets launched the first black astronaut, Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez, an Afro-Cuban.

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