Sixty years after excelling in the Mercury 13 program, Wally Funk is finally going to space. Amazon CEO and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announced on Instagram that Funk will be on New Shepard’s first crewed flight, which is scheduled for July 20th.
Funk will join Bezos, his brother Mark and an unidentified winner of an auction as passengers on Blue Origin’s maiden space tourism flight. Bezos says the quartet will experience zero gravity for four minutes when they travel to the edge of space and that Funk is Blue Origin’s “honored guest.”
The 82-year-old Funk will become the oldest person to fly to space. The current record holder is John Glenn, who flew on Space Shuttle Discovery’s STS-95 mission in 1998 at the age of 77. Glenn was one of the Mercury Seven, the astronauts who were selected for the United States’ first spaceflight program.
Thirteen women went through the same tests as the Mercury Seven as part of the privately funded Women in Space Program. Although all of the Mercury Seven traveled to space, none of Mercury 13 have until now. Funk was the youngest participant in the program and rated third among the candidates.
Funk was the first female inspector in the Federal Aviation Administration and the first woman to become an air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. She has logged more than 19,600 flying hours and has taught more than 3,000 people to fly. Funk applied three times to join NASA’s astronaut program after the agency opened it to women in the late 1970s to no avail. Six decades after Funk’s first attempts to venture to space, she’ll finally get her chance.