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Ed Dwight is an incredible example of patience and perseverance. A successful air force pilot in the 1950s and 1960s, he was NASA’s first Black astronaut candidate. But after “politics” forced him in to the regular officer corps instead, Captain Dwight resigned, built a successful career as a sculptor, and waited. In 2024, the Blue Origins company selected Ed Dwight as one of the passengers on its next private space flight. At 90, this would make Dwight the oldest person to ever go to space.

Since he was four years old, and built himself a backyard airplane out of orange crates, Edward Dwight Jr. has always dreamed of flying. He says it wasn’t until he was delivering newspapers and saw a picture of Black Air Force pilot Dayton Ragland on the front page that he even thought the career was open to him. Little did Dwight know that he would become that trailblazing role model for an entire new generation of hopeful pilots and astronauts.

By sheer force of will, Dwight built a career as an Air Force test pilot. He even took night classes in aeronautical engineering at Arizona State University during grueling pilot training and graduated his courses with honors. The way Dwight tells the story, civil rights leader Whitney Young urged John F. Kennedy to train at least one Black astronaut. In 1961, Chuck Yeager recruited Dwight to his Aerospace Research Pilot School, which trained many of NASA’s early astronauts.

Dwight’s recruitment got international media attention. He continued to work hard, making it into the school’s selective “phase II.” But according to Dwight, “racial politics had forced him out of NASA and into the regular officer corps.” NASA wouldn’t send the first Black astronaut to space until 1983.

Portrait of Ed Dwight, pioneering pilot and astronaut candidate.
Ed Dwight | Matthew Staver/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The ever-resilient Dwight landed on his feet, earning a master’s degree in sculpture from the University of Denver. He made innovations to the art form by exploring the use of negative space in three dimensions. He even founded his own studio. Dwight dedicated his talents to the civil rights movement, depicting Black history and emancipation in sculptures for cities, states, and even the National Park Service.

Meanwhile, multiple private companies have been perfecting rocket flight. Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, has sent 30 paying customers to space. Its 11-minute flights cross into zero gravity space, but are too short to complete a full orbit. In 2021, Star Trek actor William Shatner went to space as a guest aboard a Blue Origins flight. In early 2024, the organization announced that it wanted Ed Dwight to finally go to space aboard a Blue Origins flight. At 90 years old, a few months older than Shatner was during his flight, Dwight would officially be the oldest person to go to space.

See Ed Dwight tell his story in the video below: