VOA Learning English

Blue Origin Sends Oldest Person into Space

VOA Learning English • voa
May 20, 2024 3 minSource

The American space travel company Blue Origin announced that it sent 90-year-old Ed Dwight into space, making him the oldest space traveler.

The company said Dwight was the first Black astronaut candidate and was picked personally by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. But it said Dwight was not chosen to be among the next group of astronauts.

Dwight spent a few minutes of weightlessness with five other passengers on the Blue Origin spacecraft. It reached the edge of space for about 10 minutes. Dwight called the flight “a life changing experience.”

With the flight, Dwight passed Star Trek actor William Shatner as the oldest person to reach space. Shatner’s flight took place in 2021.

Dwight joined four businessmen from the U.S. and France. The cost of the trip for each was not released. Blue Origin said Dwight’s flight was paid for by Space for Humanity, a nonprofit group based in Denver, Colorado. The group aims to send people of many different backgrounds into space as “citizen astronauts.”

Dwight was in a test pilot program at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The program called “The Right Stuff” was the training ground for early astronauts. After being passed over, he retired from the military in 1966.

He later became a sculptor who made statues of Civil Rights leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and others.

The U.S. space agency NASA announced Guion Bluford as the first Black astronaut in 1978, Bluford first reached space in 1983. The former Soviet Union placed the first person with African and Cuban ancestry, Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez, into orbit in 1980.

The stories of Dwight and Bluford are among those told in the documentary movie from National Geographic called The Space Race . It is about Black astronauts.

Dwight’s flight on May 19 was the first launch with a crew for Blue Origin in nearly two years. All flights were grounded after an accident in 2022. Flights without a crew restarted last December. Sunday’s flight was the seventh to carry space tourists .

Businessman and founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos also started started Blue Origin, a company that seeks to make space tourism popular.

After completing his flight on Blue Origin’s spacecraft, Dwight said, “I thought I really didn’t need this in my life,” but added, “But now, I need it in my life…I am ecstatic .”

I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.

The Associated Press reported this story. Mario Ritter, Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional sources of information.

Words in This Story

grounded –adj. not permitted to fly

tourist –n. a person who travels for enjoyment and not for business reasons

ecstatic –adj. extremely happy and excited

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