Wally Funk had already taken her first steps towards turning into an astronaut when she was 23 years outdated.
As one of many civilian pilots in Dr. Randy Lovelace’s, Funk efficiently handed the identical bodily exams as the boys who would later be often called the Mercury Seven — the identical males who would grow to be the primary People to go to outer area.
Regardless of her accomplishments — and the achievements of the 12 different girls who additionally handed Lovelace’s exams, dubbed the Mercury 13 — Funk by no means left Earth’s ambiance, having her plans scuttled by NASA’s unwillingness to allow girls into the U.S. area program.
However on Tuesday, July 20 — nearly 20 years later — Funk will obtain her dream of travelling into area.
And it is thanks, partially, to Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos. He publicly confirmed on July 1 by way of Instagram that Funk might be considered one of 4 passengers on the inaugural crewed flight run by Bezos’s Blue Origin business aerospace firm.
“It was a shock to me, it was a shock to a whole lot of her buddies,” stated Sue Nelson, a science author, broadcaster and Funk’s pal for greater than 20 years, in an interview withhost Brent Bambury.
“We weren’t anticipating the announcement.”
Not solely will Funk make historical past by collaborating in a Blue Origin crewed flight, however at 82 years outdated, she’s additionally set to grow to be the oldest individual to ever fly into outer area.
Nelson was one of many first individuals to congratulate Funk, who stated she “waited a lifetime for this,” in accordance with Nelson.
“She stated she was ‘Going up for all of us,'” stated Nelson, who additionally authored Wally Funk’s Race for House.
“By ‘all of us,’ I feel she meant the opposite girls, the so-called Mercury 13, who had all handed these exams within the early Sixties … however by no means acquired the possibility to enter area.”
Getting ready for area
Tuesday’s flight aboard the New Shepard launch automobile will not be the final time Funk will expertise the thrills of suborbital flight.
She additionally holds a ticket for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic aerospace firm, and plans on making the space-bound journey from SpacePort America in New Mexico as quickly as she will.
“Every single day she is making ready to enter area,” Nelson stated. “She retains match, she goes swimming, she does her workouts, she does crosswords to maintain mentally match.”
Nelson added that Funk has additionally taken steps to arrange for area in “extra sensible methods,” by taking a number of zero-G flights and present process coaching in a centrifuge.
“However to be sincere, as she’s a pilot, that G-force facet of area flight shouldn’t be going to faze her, as a result of by doing acrobatics as a pilot when she was youthful and simply flying full-stop … you possibly can usually pull six Gs while you’re doing that,” stated Nelson.
“She’s not your common 82-year-old.”
And whereas Funk’s age means she’s going to interrupt a document set by John Glenn — a former NASA astronaut who testified in opposition to allowing girls to hold out area journey — Nelson says Funk’s motivations for venturing into area don’t have anything to do with outshining anybody.
“It is about being a girl, being a pilot, being informed you could’t do one thing since you’re a girl,” she stated.
Written and produced by Sameer Chhabra.
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