NASA has come up with a new, creative way to honor Black, Hispanic and Indigenous astronauts. The organization has opted to name 27 asteroids after Black, Hispanic and Indigenous astronauts who have blazed trails for astronauts of color that follow in their footsteps. Stephanie D. Wilson, Joan Higginbotham, and Ed Dwight Jr. are three of the 27 astronauts who were honored by NASA through this initiative.
Ed Dwight Jr. was never an official member of the NASA program, but it was not because he wasn't qualified. In 1961, Dwight Jr. was selected as the first Black astronaut trainee. This garnered major media attention from Ebony and Jet as well as a co-sign from Whitney Young. Unfortunately, "racial politics forced him out of NASA" after the second phase of the program. After leaving NASA, Dwight Jr. went on to have a successful career that included opening a restaurant and embarking on a career as a sculptor.
Following in the footsteps of Dwight Jr., Wilson is a Harvard graduate from Boston who has worked as an astronaut for two decades. During her career, she has participated in three space shuttle missions spanning 42 days in outer space. The Boston native is the second Black woman to fly into space and her six weeks in space is the most of any Black woman in American history.
After Wilson and Mae Jemison, Joan Higginbotham became the third Black woman to travel through space. Joining NASA in 1996 alongside Wilson, she pursued developed an interest in electrical engineering. Over time, Higginbotham earned an opportunity to participate in STS-116. Through this mission, she logged more than 300 hours in space. After 11 years, she retired from her post within NASA.
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