A female aerospace pioneer, 82, joins Bezos rocket crew
Wally Funk will soar into space with Jeff Bezos in only three weeks; sixty years after passing astronaut tests but being denied because she was a woman.
Wally Funk will be the first person to ride a New Shepard rocket, with Bezos, his brother, and the winner of a $28 million charity auction
Blue Origin, Bezos' firm, revealed that the pioneering pilot will fly in the capsule as an "honoured guest" aboard the 20th July launch from West Texas. She'll be the first person to ride a New Shepard rocket, with Bezos, his brother, and the winner of a $28 million charity auction.
Notably, she will be the oldest person to go into space, at the age of 82.
Although Funk was the youngest of the so-called Mercury 13 women who went through astronaut testing in the early 1960s and yet never made it to space — or even to NASA's astronaut corps — because they were women. At the time, NASA's astronauts were all-male military test pilots.
Funk described her excitement as "fantastic" since finally, she is able to travel to space.
“Nothing has ever stood in my way,” She said. "They said, ‘Well, you’re a girl, you can’t do that.’ 'You know what, it doesn't matter what you are,' I replied. You can still do it if you want to, and I enjoy doing things that no one has ever done before.”
“I'll enjoy every minute of it. Whoooo! Ha-ha. I can hardly wait,” Funk posted on a video released by Bezos on Instagram.
In a cosmic twist, she'll surpass the late John Glenn, who set a record at the age of 77 when he flew aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1998. Glenn dismissed the possibility of women going into space immediately after becoming the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962.
Funk, who aspires to travel to space, reserved a spot on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic rocket ship years ago. She is still on the passenger list; the business anticipates three more test flights from New Mexico, one of which will include Branson, before launching customers.
Bezos discusses to Funk in the video how four Blue Origin passengers would experience zero gravity for a few minutes before landing gently on the desert surface and opening the hatch.
On Monday, the company's creator, Jeff Bezos, will stand down as CEO.
The planned launch, which comes after 15 successful test flights, will allow paying passengers to board. Blue Origin has yet to announce ticket rates or when the general public would be able to board the capacious six-seat capsule, which reaches an altitude of approximately 65 miles, just beyond the edge of space. The up-and-down flights last a total of ten minutes.
The reusable rocket is dedicated to Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and the moon landing on July 20 marks the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.
Funk, who resides near Dallas, was the Federal Aviation Administration's first female inspector and the National Transportation Safety Board's first female air safety investigator. She stated in the video that she has 19,600 flying hours and has trained over 3,000 others to fly.
In 1960 and 1961, she was one of two dozen female pilots who went through six days of severe physical exams, similar to those given to Mercury astronaut hopefuls. The doctor who evaluated the Mercury 7 men had heard that the Soviets were planning to send a woman into space, and he wanted to determine if women could withstand the consequences of weightlessness.
The first women trained to fly to space from 1960-1961, but excluded because of their gender.