A month ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that he will be the first billionaire to fly to space on the July 20 flight. Today, he announced via Instagram that the fourth passenger will be Wally Funk, a participant of the Mercury 13 program.
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Wally Funk (82 years old) will become the oldest person of the flight organized by Bezos’ space tourism company Blue Origin. However, Funk was the first female Federal Aviation Administration inspector and first female National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator.
“In 1961, Wally Funk was at the top of her class as part of the ‘Mercury 13’ Woman in Space Program. Despite completing their training, the program was cancelled, and none of the thirteen flew,” Bezos explained.
Jeff Bezos, Wally Funk and …
In the video, Bezos asks Funk what her first words will be after touching back down on earth. “I will say, ‘Honey, that’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me’ and give you a hug!” Funk responds.
Actually, Funk has managed to rack up 19,600 flying hours.
“Everything that the FAA has, I’ve got the license for,” she said. “And I can outrun you.” Funk also recalled her time in the Mercury 13 program, which was privately funded and separate from NASA’s efforts to recruit the first US astronauts.
“They told me that I had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys,” she said. “So I got a hold of NASA four times. I said, ‘I want to become an astronaut,’ but nobody would take me.”
“I didn’t think that I would ever get to go up,” she added. “They said, ‘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 has ever done.’”
“It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me.”
As for the rest of two passengers, Wally and Jeff will fly to space with Mark, Bezos’ brother and an unidentified person who paid $28 million at auction.
“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space,” Bezos said. “On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.” He also added that he had always dreamed about this.
By the way, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, and Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, have yet to ride with their companies to space.
As a reminder, there are still two seats waiting for passengers.