‘The Space Race’ Featurette Spotlights the Bright Dreams of Afrofuturism and Space

While some may recognize the Space Race defined the competition between two Cold War rivals — America and the former Soviet Union, National Geographic Documentary Films’ The Space Race, from co-directors Lisa Cortés and Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, weaves together the stories of Black astronauts seeking to break the bonds of social injustice to reach for the stars. Now a new featurette takes a look at one of those early Black astronauts who eventually paved the way for the future for those like him.

In The Space Race, directors Lisa Cortés and Diego Hurtado de Mendoza profile the pioneering Black pilots, scientists, and engineers who joined NASA to serve their country in space, even as their country failed to achieve equality for them back on Earth. From 1963, when the assassination of JFK thwarted Captain Ed Dwight’s quest to reach the moon, to 2020, when the echoes of the civil unrest sparked by the killing of George Floyd reached the International Space Station, the story of African Americans at NASA is a tale of world events colliding with the aspirations of uncommon men. The bright dreams of Afrofuturism become reality in The Space Race, turning science fiction into science fact, and forever redefining what “the right stuff” looks like, giving us new heroes to celebrate, and a fresh history to explore.

So in honor of World Space Week, National Geographic has released a brand new The Space Race featurette. In it, we are introduced to Ed Dwight. While the astronaut had all of the qualifications to become one of the few to reach the moon, NASA prevented him from doing so because they felt he wasn’t tall enough, or he was Catholic, or he wasn’t black enough. The featurette is a small glimpse of the toxicity and racism that was rampant at NASA. And even though Dwight was selected by JFK and ultimately stalled after the president’s tragic assignation, Dwight would become an inspiration for future Black astronauts.

The Space Race is expected to start streaming on Disney+ and Hulu in 2024.