What You Should Know About Wally Funk — The 82-Year-Old Woman Flying To Space Alongside Jeff Bezos

What You Should Know About Wally Funk — The 82-Year-Old Woman Flying To Space Alongside Jeff Bezos

Amazon.com, Inc AMZN Chair Jeff Bezos is set to blast off into space on Tuesday alongside a remarkable passenger — Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk. Here are some things you should know about her.

Up, Up and Away: Bezos is set to fly to space onboard a Blue Origin craft at 7:30 A.M ET on July 20. The craft dubbed “New Shepard” will also carry by Bezos’ brother Mark Bezos and Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen.

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While Daemen, at age 18 will become the youngest person to travel to space, Funk at age 82 would be the oldest. 

Bezos posted an Instagram video of him breaking the news to Funk in person. Funk exclaimed “Finally” when she was told that she was going to be an astronaut.

When asked what would be her first words on landing when the hatch opened, Funk said, “Honey, that’s the best thing that ever happened to me!'’

New Opportunities:  Funk, at age 21, was a part of the “Women in Space,” which ran parallel to NASA’s Mercury program. The former was a project designed to gauge whether women could undergo the same rigorous tests that men were expected to pass in order to fly to the void.

The end result was they did and Funk topped the program, but none of the women ever received an opportunity to fly with NASA.

Funk applied to be a NASA astronaut four times after the agency started accepting female candidates but she did not succeed partly because of her age, as she was 40 by that time, according to a Time report.

Image: Funk (second from left) among seven members of the First Lady Astronaut Trainees group who trained to be become astronauts for the first U.S. human spaceflight program in the early 1960s. Courtesy of NASA via Wikimedia

In 2010, Funk reportedly placed a deposit to fly with Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc SPCE. The company on July 11 flew its founder, Sir Richard Branson, to the edge of space from New Mexico.

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Branson may have beat Bezos in the race to space, but the latter has won the race to take Funk to zero gravity.

A Breaker of Glass Ceilings: Funk was the first-ever female flight instructor at a U.S. military base. 

Funk was also the first woman to complete the Federal Aviation Administration’s General Aviation Operations Inspector Academy course.

She became the first woman FAA field examiner. Among other firsts, she was also the National Transportation Safety Board’s first female Air Safety Investigator.

Funk said in the Instagram video posted by Bezos that she has grossed 19,600 flying hours and has taught over 3,000 people how to fly.

“I can hardly wait,” said Funk about her upcoming flight to space.

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Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Bezos' Instagram post

Posted In: NewsJeff BezosMary WallaceWally Funk