Wally Funk, 82, who trained for NASA, will go to space with Jeff Bezos on the New Shepard flight

CAP CANAVERAL, Fla .– After half a century of waiting, Wally Funk – who trained for NASA’s Mercury program but was denied the opportunity to go into space – is finally spending his time among the stars. She was selected by the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, to accompany him, his brother and a still-unknown auction winner on a suborbital trip on July 20.

Blue Origin announced Thursday that the 82-year-old will take fourth place in the maiden crewed flight of his New Shepard suborbital spacecraft, alongside Blue Origin founder Bezos, brother Mark Bezos and auction winner auction which paid out over $ 28 million for the opportunity. (The name of the auction winner has yet to be announced.)

Funk will fly on New Shepard as a “guest of honor”, according to a post on Bezos Instagram, which also shows Bezos revealing to Funk that she will be joining the mission. She then beams and screams excitedly.

Funk volunteered as a member of the “Mercury 13” program, otherwise known as the “Woman in Space Program”, in February 1961, which was a privately funded effort to begin training women. to fly in NASA’s first space programs. The 13 women in the program went through all of the training and testing that the seven men selected by NASA for the Mercury spaceflight program undertook.

Funk became the youngest woman to graduate from the program, and she was told that she “did better and finished the job faster than any of the guys,” she said during ‘a promotional video on his participation in the Blue Origin flight.

Funk even spent 10 hours and 35 minutes inside a sensory deprivation tank in a Mercury 13 test, outdoing famed astronaut John Glenn.

“I contacted NASA four times and said, ‘I want to be an astronaut,’ but no one took me, ‘Funk said. “I didn’t think I would ever ride. Nothing ever bothered me. They say, ‘Wally, you’re a girl, you can’t do that.’ I said, ‘Guess what, no matter what you are, you can always do it if you want to do it,’ and I like to do things that no one has ever done before. “

Funk has extensive experience flying airplanes, totaling over 19,600 flight hours and teaching over 3,000 people how to fly private and commercial aircraft.

“Everything the FAA has, I’m licensed. And I can outrun you,” she joked.

But Funk won’t need all of that experience to fly Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle. The fully autonomous spaceship and rocket system is designed to enable virtually anyone to become an astronaut after just a few hours of safety instruction and training at Blue Origin’s facilities in West Texas.

New Shepard’s suborbital fights reach about three times the speed of sound – about 2,300 miles per hour – and fly straight upward until the rocket spends most of its fuel. The crew capsule will then separate from the rocket at the top of the flight path and briefly continue upward before the capsule hovers almost at the top of its flight path, giving passengers a few minutes of weightlessness. It works much like an extended version of the weightlessness you feel when you reach the top of a roller coaster hill, just before gravity pulls your cart – or, in this case, your space capsule – back crying towards the sky. ground.

The New Shepard capsule then deploys a large plume of parachutes to slow its descent to less than 20 miles an hour before touching the ground, and Bezos and his fellow travelers will be further cushioned by shock-absorbing seats.

According to a profile of Funk in the Guardian in 2019, Funk had previously purchased a ticket aboard the suborbital space plane built by the company Virgin Galactic backed by Richard Branson, the direct competitor of Blue Origin which is still in the testing phase of its schedule and has yet to announce a date for its first commercial flight.

It is not clear if Funk will maintain their plans to fly with Virgin Galactic as well.

The video in the media player above was used in a previous report.

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