90-year-old Ed Dwight becomes the oldest person to fly to space

BY Preta Peace Namasaba May 21, 2024 9:07 AM EDT
Ed Dwight. Photo credit: Blue Origin

90-year-old Ed Dwight has finally made history as the oldest person to go to space. In what he described as “a life-changing experience,” the former Air Force captain reached the edge of space for about 10 minutes and went through a few minutes of weightlessness. As previously reported by BlackStars News, Dwight became the first Black astronaut candidate in the U.S. over six decades ago.

“It was absolutely terrific. I thought I really didn’t need this in my life but now I need it in my life. I am ecstatic. It was a life-changing experience. Everybody needs to do this,” Dwight said of his space flight.

On May 19, Dwight was aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard NS-25 as it launched its first human flight in nearly two years. It was the seventh human flight for Blue Origin and its first since the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the space tourist program following a 2022 accident during an uncrewed research mission. With the flight, Dwight passed the record for the oldest person in space set by “Star Trek” actor William Shatner in 2021.

Dwight traveled with five other passengers on the short flight from West Texas. His flight was funded by Space for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that aims to change global perspectives by providing access to space for all of humanity, with additional support from the Jaison and Jamie Robinson Foundation. This historic space flight was a long-awaited moment for Dwight.

“You’ve waited a long time for this opportunity and all of us who stand on your shoulders could not be happier. As an astronaut, Bolden himself served on four missions to space. “I know how much you have dreamed about this and I want you to take some time while you are flying to suck it all up and take it all in. You deserve every moment of this. You’ve been a role model and mentor for many of us for so long and we’re with you there in spirit,” said Charles Bolden, the first Black NASA administrator.

In 1961, Dwight who had 1,500 hours of flying jet airplanes was selected by President John F. Kennedy as the first Black astronaut candidate in the U.S. He was sent to the Aerospace Research Pilot School where he completed training and received a recommendation from the U.S. Air Force to move forward. However, Dwight was not selected for the NASA Astronaut Corps and missed out on the opportunity to fly to space. He resigned from the Air Force three years after his rejection.

Dwight has spent the last five decades as a sculptor, creating large-scale monuments of iconic Black figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and the Underground Railroad. More than 130 of his public works are installed in museums and public spaces across the U.S. and Canada. His sculpture, “Pioneer Woman,” was sent to space on the vessel Orion as part of a test mission.