Triumphant Journey: Ed Dwight, Once America's First Black Astronaut, Finally Soars into Space with Blue Origin

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 5/22/2024, 9:03 a.m.
Houston Style Magazine celebrates the triumphant journey of Ed Dwight, who, after six decades, has finally soared into space. Once …
Ed Dwight at the capsul. Photo by Felix Kunze

Houston Style Magazine celebrates the triumphant journey of Ed Dwight, who, after six decades, has finally soared into space. Once heralded as the United States' first Black astronaut, Dwight's remarkable story has come full circle with his flight on Blue Origin's 25th New Shepard mission.

On May 19, 2024, at 9:35 a.m. CDT, the 90-year-old retired Air Force Captain launched from Blue Origin's West Texas facility. Accompanied by five fellow passengers, Dwight reached an altitude of 65.8 miles (105.9 km), surpassing the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale's threshold for spaceflight. The brief but impactful journey ended ten minutes later with the New Shepard capsule, "RSS First Step," safely landing back near its launch site.


 Edward J. Dwight Jr. while serving as a Captain in the US Air Force United States Air Force - Courtesy of the United States Air Force

Reflecting on the experience, Dwight expressed profound gratitude and wonder. "I thought I really didn't need this in my life, but now I need this in my life," he shared upon landing. "It was a life-changing experience."

Dwight's path to space began in 1961, fueled by President John F. Kennedy's initiative to diversify NASA's astronaut corps. As the first Black airman at the Aerospace Research Pilot School, led by aviation legend Chuck Yeager, Dwight's potential was quickly recognized. He was among the select few recommended by the Air Force to join NASA.

Despite making headlines and receiving thousands of congratulatory letters, Dwight's journey hit a significant roadblock after Kennedy's assassination in 1963. Lacking crucial support, he was ultimately overlooked for NASA's fifth group of astronauts in 1966. It wasn't until 1983 that Guion "Guy" Bluford became the first Black American in space.


 Ed Dwight attends a screening of "The Space Race" documentary in January in Houston./Bob Levey/Getty Images



"I was on an upward trajectory until ... the president was killed," Dwight recalled. "It changed the whole play. The whole thing was turned on its head and all of a sudden, I found myself without a sponsor and was lost in the hinterlands."

Dwight's dreams were finally realized with the help of Space for Humanity, a non-profit dedicated to democratizing access to space. Supported by the Jaison and Jamie Robinson Foundation, Dwight's journey was made possible.

"Everybody needs to do this," Dwight emphasized after his return, highlighting the transformative power of the "Overview Effect," the cognitive shift experienced when viewing Earth from space. Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, an executive producer on the documentary "The Space Race," which features Dwight's story, praised Space for Humanity for their role in making Dwight's spaceflight a reality.

Joining Dwight on the NS-25 mission were notable figures such as venture capitalist Mason Angel, Brasserie Mont Blanc founder Sylvain Chiron, software engineer Kenneth Hess, adventure tourist Carol Schaller, and holistic wellness advocate Gopi Thotakura. This mission marked Blue Origin's seventh human spaceflight and the first since a booster failure during an uncrewed flight in September 2022. The company has now sent 37 people to space, including Jeff Bezos and William Shatner.

Beyond his aviation achievements, Dwight has made significant contributions to the arts, creating over 20,000 gallery works and 130 public artworks and monuments, including the Texas African American History Memorial in

On this historic day, Ed Dwight not only became the 21st Black American astronaut but alsoan enduring symbol of perseverance and achievement. His journey from the barriers of the 1960s to the boundless possibilities of space epitomizes the relentless pursuit of dreams, inspiring future generations to reach for the stars.

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