Jeff Bezos will launch into space later this month, and we know he’ll be accompanied by his brother and the winner of a charity auction. There will also be an “honored guest” on board the plane – a woman who is a pioneer in aviation.
In the 1960s, Wally Funk, an 82-year-old pilot, was denied astronaut wings because she was a woman. NASA’s aviation experts specially trained 13 women to make it to space in 1961, including Funk, who would have easily been one of the first female astronauts.
In 1983, NASA had all its astronauts be men serving as military test pilots. That program, called Mercury 13, was later discontinued. Now, 60 years later, Funk is on track to become the oldest person on a space flight.
Welcome aboard, Wally. Here’s the moment Jeff Bezos asked Wally Funk to join our first human flight on July 20 as our honored guest. https://t.co/ESBJ7bxErK
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) July 1, 2021
Wally Funk will be aboard the 20th July launch from West Texas, flying in the capsule for the 10-minute hop on the New Shepard rocket, announced Jeff Bezos on his social media channels.
Funk would knock the late John Glenn, who set a record when aged 77 to become the oldest man in space when flying aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1998. Funnily enough, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket is named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Shepard was part of the same ‘Mercury’ program that Funk was part of that he was part of an all-male bunch known as the Mercury 7.
Congratulations to Wally Funk (second from the left) on being selected to fly on @BlueOrigin's first crewed flight to space! She'll fulfill her dream of spaceflight at the age of 82.
— Women@NASA (@WomenNASA) July 1, 2021
“No one has waited longer,” Bezos wrote on Instagram. “Wally, it’s time. Welcome to the crew. We look forward to having you fly with us on July 20th.”
Funk, a pilot and former flight instructor didn’t give up after Mercury 13. For the National Transportation Safety Board, she became the first female air safety investigator and the first female inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration.