America's first Black astronaut candidate finally goes to space at 90 years old

FILE - Ed Dwight attends "The Space Race" Special Screening, presented by National Geographic Documentary Films in partnership with The Space Center Houston on January 9, 2024 in Houston, TX. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images for National Geographic D

America's first Black astronaut candidate has finally made it to space 60 years later, flying with Jeff Bezos’ rocket company.

Ed Dwight blasted off from West Texas with five other passengers on Sunday. 

Dwight was an Air Force pilot when President John F. Kennedy championed him as a candidate for NASA’s early astronaut corps. But he wasn’t picked for the 1963 class, which included eventual Gemini and Apollo astronauts, including Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. 

NASA didn’t select Black astronauts until 1978, and Guion Bluford became the first African American in space in 1983. 

Dwight, now 90, went through a few minutes of weightlessness with five other passengers aboard the Blue Origin capsule as it skimmed space on a roughly 10-minute flight. He called it "a life changing experience."

"I thought I really didn't need this in my life," Dwight said shortly after exiting the capsule. "But, now .... I am ecstatic."

The brief flight from West Texas made Dwight the new record-holder for oldest person in space — nearly two months older than "Star Trek" actor William Shatner was when he went up in 2021.

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Dwight has worked as a sculptor now for decades now to tell the story of Black history, Blue Origin said

He’s spent the last five decades creating large-scale monuments of iconic Black figures, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, among many others. His more than 130 public works are installed in museums and public spaces across the U.S. and Canada. 

The launch Sunday was Blue Origin’s first crew launch in nearly two years. 

The company was grounded following a 2022 accident in which the booster came crashing down but the capsule full of experiments safely parachuted to the ground. Flights resumed last December, but with no one aboard. This was Blue Origin's seventh time flying space tourists.

This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.