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Ed Dwight, America’s First Black Astronaut Candidate, Finally Goes to Space 60 Years Later

VAN HORN, Texas (AP) — Ed Dwightthe first black American astronaut candidate, finally flew into space 60 years later, flying with Jeff Bezos’ rocket company on Sunday.

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

Dwight, now 90, experienced a few minutes of weightlessness with five other passengers aboard the Blue Origin capsule as it zoomed through space on a flight of about 10 minutes. He called it “a life-changing experience.”

“I thought I really didn’t need this in my life,” Dwight said shortly after leaving the pod. “But, now I need it in my life…I’m thrilled.”

The brief flight from West Texas made Dwight the new record holder for oldest person in space – almost two months older than “Star Trek” actor William Shatner that was when it went up in 2021.

This was Blue Origin’s first crewed launch in nearly two years. The company was immobilized following a 2022 accident in which the booster crashed but the capsule full of experiments was safely parachuted to the ground. Flights resumed last December, but without anyone on board. This was the seventh time Blue Origin has conducted flights with space tourists.

Dwight, a sculptor from Denver, was accompanied by four American and French contractors and a retired accountant. Their ticket prices have not been disclosed; Dwight’s headquarters was funded in part by the nonprofit Space for Humanity.

Dwight was among the potential astronauts recommended by the Air Force to NASA. But he was not chosen for the 1963 class, which included eventual Gemini and Apollo astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin and Apollo 11’s Michael Collins. NASA did not select black astronauts until 1978 and Guion Bluford became the first African American in space in 1983. Three years earlier, the Soviets launched the first black astronaut, Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez, a Cuban of African descent.

After leaving the military in 1966, Dwight joined IBM and started a construction company before earning a master’s degree in sculpture in the late 1970s. He has devoted himself to art ever since. His sculptures focus on black history and include memorials and monuments across the country. Several of his sculptures have flown into space.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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News Source : apnews.com

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