Wally Funk joined the richest man in the world on Blue Origin's first crewed spaceflight. At 82 years old, the aviator became the oldest person to launch into space.
The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou
Listen to this article
The Mercury 13 aviation pioneer has touched millions of hearts with her most recent achievement: space traveling at 82 years old. Sixty years ago, Funk went through the same training as the first male astronauts but never got the chance to go to space. Nevertheless, the business magnate and co-founder of the e-commerce giant Amazon, Jeff Bezos, gave her a chance. Thanks to him, Wally Funk's lifelong dream just came true.
Who Is Wally Funk?
The experienced pilot with more than 19,000 flying hours was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board. In addition, the expert was also the first female inspector for The Federal Aviation Administration.
Funk has taught over 3,000 people to fly: private, commercial, instrument, flight engineer, airline transport, and gliding.
As Sue Nelson, science journalist and author of "Wally Funk's Race for Space: The Extraordinary Story of a Female Aviation Pioneer," told WKMG-TV, "This is an important time for women.... because we're about to get within the next few years, the first woman on the moon with NASA in its Artemis program."
The Mercury 13 program was a female astronaut testing program between 1960 and 1962, of which Funk was a part. The female pilots had all the qualifications and experience to compete with their male counterparts, yet they were denied a chance to go to space.
According to Sue Nelson, the reason why none of The Mercury 13 went into space was that it was "the wrong time and the wrong place in history."
Although Funk applied four times to become an astronaut, she failed. In the early 60s, most women in the United States only had jobs as secretaries, teachers, and every position that is considered traditional.
In 2021, Alongside Jeff Bezos, Oliver Daemen, and Mark Bezos, Wally Funk went to space. The launch date was July 20, the same day on which NASA celebrated the 52nd anniversary of when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
During the early-60s, NASA was training a talented group of female astronauts to go to space. Between them was Wally Funk. Unfortunately, the program never received any encouragement from NASA.
The female team was ready and eager to fly when the program was suddenly halted. No explanation was ever given to them, although the orders apparently came from the highest level.
Some of the most influential people doubted back then the suitability of women as candidates for space. According to Dr. Donald E. Kilgore Jr., president emeritus of the Lovelace Center for the Health Sciences, there's no difference in the capability of pilots, whether they're women or men. Nevertheless, the problem was that there were no women with enough experience and research development.
Regarding Wally Funk's efforts to go to space with the Mercury 13, Dr. Kilgore points out that "The program didn't happen because they were 20 years ahead of their time."
The aviator has become one of the most significant females in history. Thanks to the great media reception of her travel with Jeff Bezos, her story is acknowledged once again today.