Blue Origin launches historic flight to space

Blue Origin

(NEW YORK) -- Ed Dwight, the United States' first Black astronaut candidate, became the oldest person to go to space on Sunday as Blue Origin launched its New Shepard NS-25 spacecraft and completed its first human flight since 2022.

The 90-year-old Dwight took his first trip to space more than 60 decades after President John F. Kennedy appointed him in 1961 to the elite Aerospace Research Pilot School -- the Air Force program from which NASA astronauts were chosen. Despite being recommended by the Air Force, Dwight was not chosen for the NASA astronaut corps in the aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination.

New Shepard NS-25 was Blue Origin's seventh human flight to space. The flight made Dwight the oldest person to make the journey to space and back.

"Long time coming," Dwight said as he emerged from the capsule Sunday, pumping his fist in the air after landing in the remote Texas desert

"It was absolutely terrific. I thought I really didn't need this in my life but now I need it in my life. I am ecstatic," Dwight said. "It was a life-changing experience. Everybody needs to do this."

The New Shepard NS-25 with five other passengers aboard lifted off from Texas at 10:36 a.m. ET.

It was the seventh human flight for Blue Origin but the first since the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the space tourist program after a mid-flight failure in September 2022 during an uncrewed research mission.

After entering private life in 1966, Dwight spent a decade as an entrepreneur before later becoming a sculptor of historic Black figures.

Dwight's seat on the flight is sponsored by the nonprofit Space for Humanity.

Charles Bolden, the first Black NASA administrator and an astronaut who flew on four missions himself, wished Dwight good luck on his flight late Saturday.

"You’ve waited a long time for this opportunity and all of us who stand on your shoulders could not be happier," Bolden told ABC News, emphasizing the word "long." "I know how much you have dreamed about this and I want you to take some time while you are flying to suck it all up and take it all in. You deserve every moment of this. You’ve been a role model and mentor for many of us for so long and we're with you there in spirit."

The launch window opened at 8:30 a.m. central time from west Texas.

Dwight was joined by Mason Angel, the founder of venture capital fund Industrious Ventures; Sylvain Chiron, the founder of Brasserie Mont Blanc; Kenneth Hess, a software engineer and entrepreneur; Carol Schaller, a retired accountant; and Gopi Thotakura, an aviator and founder of Preserve Life Corp.

Actor William Shatner was previously the oldest to fly to space. He was 90 years and 206 days old when he flew on a previous Blue Origin flight on Oct. 13, 2021. Dwight will be 90 years and 253 days old on Sunday.

John Glenn, at 77, remains the oldest person to actually launch into orbit. Blue Origin travels just above the Karman Line, about 62 miles above Earth and NASA's definition of space, while Glenn went 100 miles higher on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998.

ABC News' Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.

Sunday, May 19, 2024 at 1:18PM by Nadine El-Bawab and Bill Hutchinson, ABC News Permalink