Blue Origin to fly another 90-year-old into outer space

Ed Dwight, almost America's first Black astronaut, will ride New Shepard rocket

Blue Origin has announced the crew flying on its NS-25. Former US Air Force Captain Ed Dwight is among the six aiming to travel aboard the reusable rocket past the Kármán line, the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space.

The sub-orbital spaceflight mission is slated to launch later this year using the New Shepard rocket.

Dwight, now 90, is a notable inclusion since he joined the Aerospace Research Pilot School (ARPS) in 1961 and could have been America's first Black astronaut if things turned out differently.

Dwight's bio (archived from 2018) notes that he was chosen by President John F Kennedy to enter training as an Experimental Test Pilot with a view to becoming the first African American Astronaut candidate. However, three years after the death of Kennedy, Dwight left the military and entered private life.

According to an interview with The Guardian, Dwight departed "after racial politics forced him out of NASA and back into the regular officer corps."

Had Dwight been selected, he could have been one of the third group of astronauts, which included Apollo 11's Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

It would be another 20 years before Guion Bluford became the first Black astronaut to travel into space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Dwight is not the first almost-astronaut to finally get a chance to be launched into space atop Jeff Bezos' New Shepard rocket. Wally Funk, now 85 and a member of the Mercury 13 group of women, took a trip in 2021 as part of the NS-16 spaceflight.

He might, however, be the oldest. The current record holder is William Shatner, who was 90 years, six months, and 22 days old when he visited space. The Star Trek actor seemed especially moved by his experience back in 2021. "Everybody in the world needs to do this. Everybody in the world needs to see this," he said. "It was unbelievable."

"To see the blue color whip by! Now you're staring at a blackness...That's the thing, the covering of blue...this sheet, this blanket, this comforter of blue we have around us... We say, oh that's the blue sky and then you shoot through it all and then all of a whip off the sheet... And you look down, and there's your blue down there. It's just...there is mother Earth, comfort."

Blue Origin has yet to set a date for the NS-25 flight, but with a birth date of September 9, 1933, it seems likely that Dwight might well snatch Shatner's crown. ®

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