KENT, Wa. (Blue Origin PR) — Fulfilling a lifelong mission to become an astronaut, Wally Funk will fly to space on New Shepard’s first human flight on July 20 as an honored guest. She will join Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, and the auction winner on the flight.
Wally’s journey to space began in the 1960s when she was the youngest graduate of the Woman in Space Program, a privately-funded project which tested female pilots for astronaut fitness. Later known as the “Mercury 13” – thirteen American women successfully underwent the same physiological and psychological screening tests as the astronauts selected by NASA for Project Mercury, but they never flew to space. Wally was the youngest graduate of this program.
She was the first female FAA inspector and first female NTSB air safety investigator. The 82-year-old pilot will now be part of the first crew on New Shepard, and the oldest person ever to fly to space.
Here’s the moment Jeff Bezos asked Wally Funk to join our first human flight on July 20 as his honored guest.
The press kit can be found here.
Blue Origin Astronaut Bio: Wally Funk
Wally Funk, 82, is an American aviator, Goodwill Ambassador, and one of the “Mercury 13,” the 13 American women who underwent the same physical and mental tests as the seven male astronauts selected by NASA for Project Mercury, America’s first human spaceflight program. Raised in Taos, New Mexico, Wally was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board(NTSB), the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the first female Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) inspector. She has more than 19,600 flight hours and has taught more than3,000 students to fly.
- Wally volunteered for the Woman in Space Program in February 1961, which was later coined the “Mercury 13.”The program was led by Dr. William Randolph Lovelace with the support of NASA and was intended to start training women for early U.S. space programs.
- Wally was the youngest of the 19 women who enrolled in the program and the youngest of the 13—the namesake for the “Mercury 13” —to graduate.
- During one test, Wally was placed in a sensory deprivation tank for 10 hours and 35 minutes, setting a record and scoring higher than John Glenn in the test. The Woman in Space program was canceled before the 13 women underwent their final test.
Education + Early Love for Aviation:
- Wally ook her first flying lesson at age nine.
- In high school, Wally aspired to take mechanical drawing and auto mechanics courses but wasn’t permitted to as a female, dropping out early instead to enter Stephens College in Columbia, MO. At Stephens, she became the top-rated member of the “Flying Susies” and graduated in 1958 with her pilot’s license and an Associate of Arts degree.
- Wally completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education at Oklahoma State University, known for its student “Flying Aggies” aviation program. While at OSU, she earned numerous instrumentation and instruction ratings, including her Commercial, Single-engine Land, Multi-engine Land, Single-engine Sea, Instrument, Flight Instructor’s, and all Ground Instructor’s ratings.