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    Man who hoped to be first Black astronaut in 1960s finally heading to space

    By Caitlin O'Kane,


    First Black astronaut candidate Ed Dwight Jr.'s second mission 06:10

    In 1961, Ed Dwight hoped to become the first Black astronaut in space. But he never made it. Now, at 90 years old, Dwight will get the chance to finally experience space onboard Blue Origin's upcoming mission into Earth's atmosphere.

    Dwight was selected by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to enter an Air Force training program known as the path to NASA's Astronaut Corps.

    When he got the letter in 1961 offering him the opportunity to be the first Black astronaut, "I thought these dudes were crazy," Dwight told national correspondent Jericka Duncan in 2022.

    After completing the program in 1963, the Air Force recommended he join the corps, but he wasn't selected and entered private life in 1966.

    Dwight said he felt discrimination among his peers during the training.

    "So, all these White folks that I'm dealing with, I mean, my peers, the other guys that were astronaut candidates and the leadership was just horrified at the idea of my coming down to Edwards and the president appointing me to the position," Dwight said.

    His dream of going to space fell by the wayside for more than 60 years. But Dwight has been selected as one of the six civilians to travel to the edge of space on the next Blue Origin flight in June.

    Blue Origin, a space exploration company founded by Jeff Bezos, has sent 22 successful commercial flights into the atmosphere. Some of the famous passengers include Bezos himself, who was on the historic first flight, Michael Strahan and William Shatner.

    During the first commercial flight, aviation pioneer Wally Funk became the oldest person to travel to space at age 82. At 90 years old, Shatner took the title of the oldest person in space.

    Now, Dwight will have him tied.

    After his flight training and subsequent leave from the Air Force, Dwight dedicated his life to creating sculptures that depict iconic figures in Black history. More than 130 pieces of his work have been exhibited in museums and installed in public spaces.

    His seat on the Blue Origin flight – which is believed to cost $250,000 – is sponsored by the nonprofit Space for Humanity , which helps send citizens to space. They also sponsored Katya Echazarreta, 26, an electrical engineer originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, who went on Blue Origin's June 2022 mission, becoming the first Mexican-born American woman and one of the youngest women ever to fly to space.

    The space trip takes the civilians about 62 miles away from Earth and into the atmosphere for a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of space and Earth.

    The other five people on the upcoming Blue Origin flight are venture capitalist Mason Angel, French brewery founder Sylvain Chiron, software engineer Kenneth L. Hess, retired CPA Carol Schaller and pilot and aviator Gopi Thotakura.

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