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82-year-old Wally Funk to fly into space with Jeff Bezos

Cape Canaveral: Amazon’s founderJeff Bezos, along with Wally Funk, one of the 13 women who passed Nasa’s astronaut training program in the 1960s, will send the first crewed spacecraft from his rocket company Blue Origin later this month. Blue Origin said on Thursday that Wally Funk would be aboard the capsule on the 20th, flying in it as an ‘honored guest.’

As the first person to ride a New Shepard rocket, she will join Jeff Bezos, his brother and the winner of a $28 million charity auction. Blue Origin announced on Thursday that Funk, 82, will be the oldest person to travel into space.

Wally Funk said she feels ‘fabulous’ about finally getting the chance to go to space after acing astronaut tests for decades but being denied because she was a woman. ‘I didn’t think I would ever get to go up,’ Funk said in an interview posted on the company’s website.

‘I’ll love every second of it. Whoooo! Ha-ha. I can hardly wait. Nothing has ever gotten in my way. They said, ‘Well, you’re a girl, you can’t do that.’ I said, ‘Guess what, doesn’t matter what you are. You can still do it if you want to do it and I like to do things that nobody has ever done,’ Funk said in a video Bezos posted on Instagram.

‘No one has waited longer. It’s time. Welcome to the crew, Wally,’ said Bezos via his Instagram page.

The late John Glenn set a record at age 77 in 1998 when he flew aboard the space shuttle Discovery. After he became the first American to orbit the globe in 1962, Glenn dismissed the idea of women flying in space.

At 21 years old, Funk was the youngest of the 13 women who passed the same rigorous physical tests as the Mercury Seven male astronauts as part of Nasa’s program that first sent Americans into space between 1961 and 1963. Although all the women passed, they were denied the opportunity to become astronauts themselves because of their gender. In 1963, Russians launched the first woman into space, Valentina Tereshkova.

‘They told me that I had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys. So I got hold of Nasa four times. I said I want to become an astronaut, but nobody would take me. I didn’t think that I would ever get to go up,’ Wally Funk said.

As the first woman inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration and the first woman investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, Funk made history. She has logged 19,600 flying hours and taught more than 3,000 people how to fly.

Wally Funk also reserved a seat on Virgin Galactic’s rocket ship years ago and remains on the passenger list.


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