Wally Funk, the 82 years old "Mercury 13" Pioneer is all set to become the oldest person to travel to space after being denied an opportunity in her 20's by NASA.
Funk was the first female ‘National Transportation Safety Board’ air safety investigator and first female ‘Federal Aviation Administration inspector’. According to Jeff Bezos’ Instagram video, she has successfully taught more than 3000 people to fly and along with that, she has logged 19,600 hours of flight time. “Everything that FAA has, I have got the license for and I can easily outrun you!”, Funk said in the Instagram video. Funk never gave up in her life. When NASA opened its programs for women in 1976, she applied three times and got rejected every time. But even after all these rejections, she never let anything stand in her way to her dreams. “I like to do the things that nobody has ever done,” said Funk in the video.
“Mercury 13” was a group of thirteen women who were privately trained and tested by the team of Medical Experts for Aviation for NASA’s astronaut program at the height of the space race. It was formed in 1961 and Funk was the youngest member of the group. The program was no different than Mercury 7, NASA’s all-male group of original astronauts. Mercury 13 put its members through the same rigorous testing as Mercury 7, yet the women’s group was canceled by NASA.
During her childhood, Funk used to jump off of the roof of her parents’ barn wearing a Superman’s cape, as she pretended to fly. Being an aviation enthusiast, she used to build model ships and planes. She became an “expert marksman” at the age of 14 and skied competitively for the United States in slalom and downhill races. She started her journey in 1957 and has been flying ever since. Apart from this, her craze for antique cars is unreal.
Jeff Bezos' Space Flight
Exactly after sixty years since then, Wally Funk, 82 is going to become the oldest person to travel to space, as E-commerce pioneer and Entrepreneur Jeff Bezos announced through an Instagram post on Thursday. Along with Funk, Jeff, His brother, mark and an unnamed winner of an auction are going to space. In the video, you can find Jeff describing the plan for the New Shepard’s journey to Wally Funk and asks here, “When we open the hatch, and you step outside, what is the first thing you’d say?” Without hesitating, she answered, “I am going to say, ‘Honey, that’s the best thing that has ever happened to me!’.” After that, she pulled Bezos into a cute little bear hug.
Funk is Jeff’s special and honored guest for the flight, as declared by him. Out of other people boarding the flight, there’s an unnamed person who won Blue Origin’s auction. Around 7,600 bidders from around 159 countries participated in the auction. The auction topped out at $28 million.
Blue origin gave special instructions to the travelers. They said that the travelers should endure thrice the force of gravity for at least two minutes on ascent and 5½ times the force of gravity for a few seconds on their way down. Travelers need to be 5 feet and 6-feet-4-inches tall and they must weigh between 110 and 223 pounds.
The New Shepard is named after Alan Shepard, who was the first American to travel to space in the year 1961. In the first suborbital flight, the New Shepard flew straight up, flying past 60 miles to reach the edge of space before falling back to the Earth. The flight took about 10 minutes in all, along with a few minutes of weightlessness in the space.
When the Guardian asked Wally Funk’s reaction to the cancellation of the First Lady Astronaut Trainees program, she replied that “I’m a positive kind of person. Things got canceled, so what? Wally’s going on. Why are people so negative about it? I’m not a quitter.” Thanks to Jeff Bezos for making her dream come true.