Black astronauts say 90-year-old Ed Dwight’s first space trip was ‘justice’

Hours after his historic first trip to space, Ed Dwight, 90, sat among three black retired NASA astronauts who thanked him for blazing a path to put them into orbit and called his journey aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard NS-25 spacecraft “justice.”

More than six decades after President John F. Kennedy named him the first black astronaut candidate for the elite Aerospace Research Pilot School — the Air Force program in which NASA astronauts were chosen – Dwight finally accomplished on Sunday what had been denied him. all those years ago.

When he returned to Earth as the oldest person to ever travel to space, he was greeted and applauded by retired NASA astronauts and space shuttle veterans Leland Melvin, Charles Bolden and Bernard Harris, who told him that their achievements were only possible by standing on his shoulders. .

PHOTO: Ed Dwight celebrates as he exits the Mission NS-25 crew capsule, after landing near the Blue Origin base near Van Horn, Texas, May 19, 2024.

Ed Dwight celebrates his exit from the Mission NS-25 crew capsule as it lands near Blue Origin Base near Van Horn, Texas, May 19, 2024.

Blue Origin/AFP via Getty Images

“Now we have justice by filling the history books with Ed Dwight flying into space and getting justice,” Melvin, who flew two space missions aboard the space shuttle Atlantis, told ABC News.

Although he was appointed by Kennedy to the Aerospace Research Pilot School and recommended by the Air Force, Dwight was not chosen for the NASA Astronaut Corps following the Kennedy assassination.

After entering private life in 1966, Dwight spent a decade as an entrepreneur before becoming a sculptor of historical black figures. He told ABC News that after leaving the Air Force, he admitted he was haunted by the feeling of not being able to achieve his goal of becoming an astronaut.

“Every time I started a project, I finished it. And here this thing came and it was a big, mysterious question mark sitting there,” Dwight said. “And so the tendency of human beings in a situation like that is to let it go and say they don’t need it.”

PHOTO: After his historic flight to space, Ed Dwight, 90, second from left, talks with retired NASA astronauts Leland Melvin, Charles Bolden Jr. and Bernard Harris on May 19, 2024.

After his historic flight to space, Ed Dwight, 90, second from left, talks with retired NASA astronauts Leland Melvin, Charles Bolden Jr. and Bernard Harris on May 19, 2024.

ABC News

But he said that as more supporters and fans encouraged him to pursue the opportunity, he began to “analyze the need to put it at the forefront of my mind.”

“I found out I needed it because I had to finish it,” Dwight said.

Dwight was one of six people who blasted off into space from the remote Texas desert on Sunday aboard the New Shepard. Dwight’s flight was sponsored by the nonprofit Space for Humanity.

A retired Air Force captain, Dwight told ABC News that it wasn’t the weightlessness of zero gravity that interested him most, saying he experienced a lot of it during from his training in the 1960s.

“I wanted to look outside,” Dwight said. “Several people I respect have told me that, given the choice of being weightless for 10 minutes or something or watching, it was determined that watching was much more important to me because I’m a curious person.

He added: “When you see something as magnanimous as this Earth and you really pay attention to it, it’s mind-boggling. I mean, it makes your head spin.”

PHOTO: Mission NS-25, with the New Shepard 4 rocket and crew capsule, lifting off from Blue Origin Base near Van Horn, Texas, May 19, 2024.

Mission NS-25, with the New Shepard 4 rocket and crew capsule, lifting off from Blue Origin Base near Van Horn, Texas, on May 19, 2024.

Blue Origin/AFP via Getty Images

Dwight said the experience was life-changing and suggested that every elected leader in Congress be required to view Earth from space.

“If they were to circle the globe two or three times, they would see the need to unify this planet and see what they are losing by destroying it,” Dwight said.

Harris, who flew on two NASA space shuttle missions, said that as he watched Dwight finally achieve his goal, he thought about the doors that might have been opened sooner for Black Americans if Dwight had become an astronaut there. six decades ago.

“I dreamed of being an astronaut while watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin when I was 13,” Harris said. “What if Ed had actually gotten on the plane? What a difference that would have made in my life because during that time I didn’t see anyone who looked like me.”

PHOTO: Captain Ed Dwight stands in front of an F-104 jet fighter.

Captain Ed Dwight stands in front of an F-104 jet fighter.

Archives Bettmann/Getty Images

Turning to Dwight sitting next to him, Harris said, “And so, seeing you take off today, we all cried. And we really appreciate what you did today and what you did for us years ago.”

Bolden, who flew on four space shuttle missions before becoming NASA’s first black administrator, said seeing Dwight go into space “filled a hole.”

“We really, really, really needed it,” Bolden said, calling Dwight an example for young people that any goal can be achieved with “persistence.”

Asked by ABC News what was left on his bucket list, Dwight laughed and said his trip to space was like “tasting honey.”

“I want a whole jar of this,” Dwight said. “I’d like to go into orbit. That’s what I’d like to do.”