Saddle up, we are going to space!
On Tuesday, July 20, billionaire Jeff Bezos blasted off into space on his own Blue Origin New Shepard rocket. Bezos was not alone, however, as Texan and aviation enthusiast Wally Funk made history as the oldest person to ever fly to space.
Also flying with Bezos and Funk was 18-year-old Oliver Daemen from the Netherlands, as well as Mark Bezos, Jeff’s brother.
This opportunity was what Funk dreamed of her entire life. In the 1960s, Funk was training to be an astronaut through the Women in Space Program. This program was selected thirteen American women, otherwise known as the ‘Mercury 13,’ to complete exhausting physiological and psychological screenings such as the astronauts for Project Mercury did. Despite her dedication and training, Funk was never able to make it to space as women were not deemed desirable for space travel.
Funk made history then also as she became the youngest graduate of the program at just 22 years old.
"They told me that I had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys," Funk said in an Instagram video posted by Blue Origin. "So, I got a hold of NASA four times. I said, 'I want to become an astronaut,' but nobody would take me. I didn't think that I would ever get to go up."
Funk never gave up on her dream, however, as she went on to become the first female FAA inspector and the first female NTSB air safety investigator. Funk has spent 19,600 hours flying in the air, whether it be for business or leisure, and has taught over 3,000 people to fly.
Still, Funk never relinquished her dream of seeing space with her own eyes. After Tuesday’s 10-minute and 10-second flight, her dream finally came true.
"Nothing has ever gotten in my way," Funk said. "They said, 'Wally, you're a girl. You can't do that!' I said, 'Guess what. Doesn't matter what you are, you can still do it if you want to do it, and I like to do things that nobody has ever done.'"