Wally Funk trained for NASA’s Mercury program over 60 years ago, but she was unable to secure her spot to go into space. Now, at 82 years old, Funk is getting the chance to go to the final frontier after being selected by Jeff Bezos to join him and his brother on their suborbital adventure on July 20.
On Thursday, Blue Origin, the space exploration company founded by the Amazon creator announced that Funk will be the fourth person to fly on the New Shepard suborbital spacecraft. She will also be joining the unnamed winner of the auction who paid more than 28 million dollars to secure their spot on board, according to CNN.
In February of 1961, Funk volunteered as part of the “Women in Space Program,” a private venture to take women into space during NASA’s earliest space flights. Funk was the youngest woman to graduate from that program, and was told that she “had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys,” according to Bezos’ Instagram post, announcing Funk as the fourth person on the flight.
As part of her training, she even outlasted legendary astronaut John Glenn by lasting 10 hours and 35 minutes in a sensory deprivation tank.
“I got a hold of NASA four times, and said ‘I want to become an astronaut,’ but nobody would take me,” Funk told CNN.
“I didn’t think I would ever get to go up. Nothing has ever gotten in my way. They say, ‘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’s ever done before.”
Funk has 19,600 flying hours to her name and has taught thousands of people how to fly.
Desperate to get into space, Funk previously purchased a ticket abroad a Virgin Galactic suborbital spacecraft. That craft remains in its testing phase and it remains to be seen if Funk will get a chance to fly with Virgin Galactic as well.