Ed Dwight, America’s First Black Astronaut Candidate, Achieves Space Journey at Age 90

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In the turbulent years of the early 1960s space race, Ed Dwight seemed poised to shatter barriers as America’s first Black astronaut. Handpicked for the astronaut program as an accomplished Air Force pilot graduating at the top of his class, Dwight had the backing of President John F. Kennedy himself, who championed diversifying the ranks of NASA’s pioneering explorers.

Sadly, Dwight’s pioneering moment never came. In what many observers viewed as a stinging instance of racism and the insidious effects of segregation-era politics, he was ultimately passed over for an astronaut role. For over 60 years, Dwight’s unfulfilled dream of reaching space lingered.

But this month at the remarkable age of 90, Ed Dwight finally experienced the transcendent journey he had longed for his entire life. The former Air Force captain was a passenger aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, soaring over 347,000 feet high on a 10-minute suborbital flight that allowed him to experience the liberating sensations of weightlessness and witness the stunning curvature of the Earth from the inky blackness of space.

As Dwight emerged triumphantly from the capsule after landing, fists defiantly raised, he beamed “Long time coming.” The newly-minted nonagenarian astronaut described the experience as “fantastic” and “life-changing” in a way he never could have imagined. “I didn’t know I needed this in my life,” Dwight told reporters, “but now I need it in my life.”

The overwhelming emotion of at last achieving his lifelong dream left Dwight already hungering for more. “I want to go into orbit. I want to go around the Earth and see the whole Earth. That’s what I want to do now,” he declared.

Photo: IMS Vintage Photos via Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Though the racism and political divisions of the 1960s cruelly deprived Ed Dwight of his rightful place in the astronaut corps, he persevered through a series of successful, trailblazing post-Air Force careers as a restaurateur, real estate developer, and finally as a renowned sculptor whose works immortalize prominent Black historical figures.

Recounting the culmination of his incredible journey at age 90, Dwight reflected to The New York Times, “Everything I’ve done has been an uphill battle: getting into the military and being an Air Force pilot, getting chosen by the president to be the first Black astronaut and facing obstacles in that program. Then after the Air Force, becoming a big-time businessman and starting an art career at 45. My whole life has been getting things done – this is the culmination.”

Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Armando A. Schwier-Morales via Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

After more than half a century of deferral, Ed Dwight has finally experienced the sublime journey into space he dreamed of, becoming the oldest person ever to reach the heavens. His long-delayed milestone as a septuagenarian astronaut marks the resilient realization of a dream long deferred by injustice, but never truly defeated.

Source: mymodernmet

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