Six Decades Later, Black Astronaut Finally Reaches Space

May 21, 2024

Sixty-one years ago, Ed Dwight almost became America’s first Black astronaut to reach space . On Sunday, Dwight made a different kind of mark in flight history. He became the oldest man to make a trip into space. 

Dwight was aboard Blue Origin. It's a rocket owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos. It lifted off from West Texas carrying six passengers on a 10-minute suborbital flight. At age 90, Dwight passed former Star Trek star William Shatner as the oldest person to reach the edges of space. Shatner was a few months younger than Dwight when he took a similar suborbital mission in 2021. 

In 1961, Dwight was among a group of astronauts chosen by President John F. Kennedy to complete training at the Aerospace Research Pilot School. But he was not chosen for one of those early NASA space missions.

The Sunday cruise was Blue Origin’s first tourist flight since 2022. The rocket soared more than 347,000 feet from Earth. It even crossed the 330,000-foot Kármán line. The latter is an imaginary boundary that scientists use to mark the entry line of space. The capsule’s passengers experienced weightlessness for just a few short moments. 

Along with Dwight in the capsule were: Mason Angel, a venture capitalist; Sylvain Chiron, the founder of a French craft brewery; Kenneth Hess, an entrepreneur; Gopi Thotakura, an aviator; and Carol Schaller, a retired accountant. Thotakura became the first Indian to go to space as a tourist. 

Dwight burst into a huge smile as he exited the rocket after its landing. “Fantastic! A life-changing experience. Everyone needs to do this!” he told reporters. “I didn't know I needed this in my life, but now I need it in my life.”  

Reflect: What is your biggest, wildest travel goal? The skies are NOT the limit!

Photo of Blue Origin crew from Blue Origin press release.

The author provides a first-person account of Blue Origin’s space flight with direct quotes from _______. (Common Core RI.5.6; RI.6.6)
a. William Shatner
b. Mason Angel
c. Gopi Thotakura
d. Ed Dwight
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