Funk trained to be an astronaut sixty years ago as part of NASA’s “Women in Space Program”.
Last month, I reported that Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos and his brother were joining the crewed Blue Origin flight into space on July 20th.
Now Bezos has completed crew selection on his new venture’s first “manned” flight, with the addition of Wally Funk, who was among the 13 women who passed NASA’s astronaut training program in the 1960s.
Funk, 82, will be the oldest person ever to travel into space, Blue Origin said in an announcement on Thursday.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get to go up,” Funk said in a video interview posted on the company’s website.
Funk, then a 21-year-old pilot, was the youngest of the 13 women who passed the same rigorous testing as the Mercury Seven male astronauts in NASA’s program that first sent Americans into space between 1961 and 1963, but were denied the chance to become astronauts themselves because of their gender.
The joy on Funk’s face when the announcement was made was radiant.
A fourth passenger, whose name has not yet been released by the company hasn’t revealed paid more than $29 million for the fourth seat.
According to a fact sheet from Blue Origin, Funk at one point was placed in a sensory deprivation tank for 10 hours, 35 minutes, setting a record and scoring higher than astronaut John Glenn in the test.
Blue Origin chose the July 20 date partly because it is the 52nd anniversary of the first moon landing.
Funk has a very impressive aviation credentials.
Funk volunteered as a member of the “Mercury 13” program, otherwise known as the “Women in Space Program,” in February of 1961, which was a privately-funded effort intended to begin training women to fly in NASA’s earliest space programs. The 13 women in the program undertook all of the training and testing that the seven men selected by NASA for the Mercury spaceflight program undertook.
Funk became the youngest woman to graduate from the program, and she was told she “had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys,” she said during a promotional video about her participation in the Blue Origin flight.
Funk even spent 10 hours and 35 minutes inside a sensory deprivation tank in one Mercury 13 test, outperforming famed astronaut John Glenn.
…Funk has extensive experience piloting aircraft, logging over 19,600 flying hours and teaching more than 3,000 people how to fly private and commercial aircraft.
“Everything the FAA has, I’ve got the license for. And I can outrun you,” she joked.
And while Funk, indeed, may be the most qualified member of the Blue Origin crew flying, I think there is an ulterior motive to Bezos’ choice. Over 75,000 people signed the petition to wanting Bezos to never return to Earth. I suspect many of those who signed would, however, like to see Funk land safely after having had her dream trip into Earth’s orbit.DONATE
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