Wally Funk, 82, who was previously excluded from an astronaut career because she is female, on Tuesday became the oldest person to ever travel to space.
Funk, who had already made history as the National Transportation Safety Board’s first female aviation safety investigator and the Federal Aviation Administration’s first female inspector, joined Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and two other passengers on the trip. of suborbital space travel.
“I waited a long time to finally get up there, and I did a lot of astronaut training around the world – Russia, America and I always got to beat guys over what they were doing, because I was always stronger, and I always did everything on my own, ”Funk said at a press conference after the New Shepard, the rocket funded by Bezos’ spaceflight company, Blue Origin, had completed his 11 minute trip.
Funk’s excitement was palpable on Tuesday as she stood up to talk about her experience and kissed Bezos on the cheek.
Born Mary Wallace Funk, the pioneering aviator was one of 13 women who underwent rigorous, sometimes grueling tests in the 1960s to determine if women were fit for space travel. Although she and the other women were tested on par or better than men, NASA required its astronauts to be military test pilots – a role women were excluded from at the time.
Until Funk’s trip on Tuesday, none of these women had ever reached space. Only she and one other woman in the program are still alive.
Funk said after landing that she hoped this space flight wasn’t the last.
“We had a great time. It was wonderful. I want to leave quickly,” she said.
As an aviator, Funk has logged over 19,000 flight hours and taught over 3,000 people how to fly. It’s likely, the New York Times noted, that she spent more time on planes as a pilot than the other three men on the New Shepard spent as plane passengers.
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