Behind the Wings ®
The Podcast – S4, Episode 31

The first Black astronaut candidate talks about his experiences with the astronaut program in this in-depth conversation about his pioneering space journey.

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Welcome to Season 4 of Behind the Wings, which means 10 new episodes coming your way! It’s February, and in celebration of Black History Month, we are excited to speak with the first Black astronaut candidate, Ed Dwight Jr. In 1961, just 3 years after NASA started, our guest was making waves as a test pilot in aviation and training to be one of the first astronauts. Ed talks about his incredible journey, his time in the Air Force and the space program, and how, in an instant, the dream of space flight was taken away.

Ed’s resume reads: Air Force Test Pilot, America’s First Black Astronaut Candidate, IBM Computer Systems Engineer, Aviation Consultant, Restaurateur, Real Estate Developer, Construction Entrepreneur, and Sculpture Artist. There’s a lot to learn in this episode!

Ed Dwight Jr.
Key Takeaways:
  • Ed first got into flying as a kid when pilots at the nearby airport in Kansas paid him to help clean their aircraft.
  • Dwight signed up for the Air Force after seeing a newspaper featuring a Black fighter pilot on the cover.
  • To get Black voters, Kennedy promised to get a Black candidate into the astronaut program.
  • After quickly rising through the ranks in the Air Force, Dwight was the only Black pilot to meet the strict requirements to become an astronaut.
  • Ed trained with 16 others in the astronaut program headed by Chuck Yeager.
  • After Kennedy’s assassination, it was clear that Ed was being ousted from his astronaut training. He resigned from the Air Force shortly after.
  • His time in the Air Force didn’t discourage him. He went on to become a very successful sculpture artist, creating memorials and art representing the accomplishments and history of Black people in America.
Behind the Wings Season 4

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Behind the Wings Season 4

Peek into the cockpits of rare warbirds and spacecraft, hear from aerospace experts and more in our episodic documentary series!

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