At 93, Tuskegee Airman Would Be Oldest Person in Space

The Wall Street Journal takes a closer look at Le Roy Gillead, the Tuskegee airman whom XCOR has chosen for a free trip into space aboard its Lynx vehicle.

Still agile and opinionated, Mr. Gillead enlisted before Pearl Harbor and trained as a navigator and bombardier on B-25 bombers, though he never saw combat. After being discharged from the military in 1950, he worked for the United Nations and later as a federal affirmative-action compliance official. He was chosen by his Tuskegee peers to accept the award from XCOR, partly because of his remarkably good health.

If Mr. Gillead passes the medical exam required of all would-be space tourists, the San Francisco area resident will receive the first promotional blastoff aboard XCOR’s planned Lynx rocketship.

But there is a catch. Mr. Gillead likely will have to wait until at least 2012 to buckle in, at which point he could be 93. That’s when test flights on the Lynx – a craft which will carry a pilot and a single passenger at twice the speed of sound — are expected to be completed.

I wish him luck. It sounds like a great adventure and a nice reward for life of consequence.

Read the full story.