Who is going to space with Jeff Bezos?
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson is aiming to beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos into space by nine days. Branson's company announced Thursday evening that its next test flight will be July 11 and that its founder will be among the six people on board. Associated PressRichard Branson announces trip to space, ahead of Jeff Bezos
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Wally Funk, 82, underwent training as an astronaut in the 1960s. When the flight takes off on July 20, she’ll become the oldest person ever to fly to space.
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04 July, 2021 - 11:15am
04 July, 2021 - 11:15am
04 July, 2021 - 11:15am
04 July, 2021 - 11:15am
An 82-year-old woman stands poised this month to fulfill her mission to become an astronaut — and she's doing so with the confidence and enthusiasm of a 22-year-old.
Wally Funk, who served as the first woman inspector at the Federal Aviation Administration, will be an honored guest aboard New Shepard, the launch vehicle of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company, Blue Origin, the company announced.
The company said Funk will join Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos and the winner of an online auction on a flight into space on July 20.
A video on Blue Origin’s website shows Jeff Bezos asking Funk what she’ll say upon returning to Earth.
“I will say, ‘Honey, that was the best thing that ever happened to me,’” she replies with a laugh, then gives Bezos a hug.
“Everything that the FAA has, I’ve got the license for,” she says in the video. She adds with a laugh, pointing apparently at her interviewer: “And I could outrun you.”
Funk started her career in aviation in the 1960s when she became the youngest graduate of a privately-funded project that later became known as Mercury 13. That project featured 13 women who passed the same physiological and psychological screening tests as the astronauts selected for Project Mercury, the country’s first so-called man-in-space program.
Blue Origin now touts her as set to become the oldest person ever to fly in space.
In a salute to women who served as aviation trailblazers, the FAA quotes Funk as saying: “I can do anything a man can do.”
04 July, 2021 - 11:15am
04 July, 2021 - 11:15am
04 July, 2021 - 11:15am
02 July, 2021 - 03:31pm
July 2, 2021 | 4:31pm | Updated July 2, 2021 | 4:31pm
When Wally Funk launches into space later this month aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, she will, at 82, be the oldest astronaut ever.
But she was nearly the youngest.
The New Mexico native was 22 when she joined the Mercury 13 program, a group of intrepid women who, back in 1961, underwent the same training as the Mercury 7, NASA’s all-male crew of original astronauts.
The women were never allowed to go into space, and hardly written about. It was a pioneering program lost to history.
Sue Nelson, a UK science writer, broadcaster and author of the 2019 book, “Wally Funk’s Race for Space: The Extraordinary Story of a Female Aviation Pioneer” spoke with Funk after her trip plans were made public this week by Bezos.
“She said, ‘I’ve waited a lifetime, honey,’ ” Nelson told The Post, adding that Funk will be representing Mercury 13 when she heads into space. “She told me, ‘I am going up for all of them.’ She knows the significance.”
The Mercury 13 program lasted a year and was privately funded.
It was started by Dr. William Randolph Lovelace, who designed NASA’s strenuous examinations. He invited pilot Jerrie Cobbe to undergo the same tests as the males and she passed. In the next year, another 12 women would successfully complete the training — sometimes besting the men.
“The general consensus was that it was a physician’s curiosity of seeing whether women could do the same,” said Nelson.
As part of psychological trials, the aspiring space explorers were isolated and put into a darkened room, which led some to hallucinate. Nelson said Funk lasted 10 and a half hours, more than any other person, male or female.
In Bezos’ announcement, Funk acknowledged her prowess in the battle of the sexes.
“Back in the ’60s, I was in the Mercury 13 program,” Funk said. “They asked me, ‘Do you want to be an astronaut?’ I said ‘Yes.’ They told me that I had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys.”
Nelson said that unlike the men who trained together as a group, the females did so in pairs. But Funk did hers solo after the other woman assigned to undergo testing with her dropped out on the first day.
Some of the women, including Funk, were invited to Pensacola, Florida, for further training which never came to fruition.
NASA torpedoed any hopes of the women launching into space, requiring candidates to be graduates of military jet test pilot programs. It was an insurmountable obstacle for the women considering no military branch allowed female pilots at the time.
Mercury 13 then shut down.
“There were women on the Mayflower and on the first wagon trains west, working alongside the men to forge new trails to new vistas. We ask that opportunity in the pioneering of space,” said Cobbe to no avail.
“As a result of the Americans’ hesitancy at the time, the Russians got there first with Valentina Tereshkova,” said Nelson.
It wasn’t until 1983 that Sally Ride broke the barrier for American female astronauts.
In 1995, New York native Eileen Collins helmed Discovery, becoming the first female shuttle pilot and invited the 13 trailblazers to watch the launch.
In recognition of female aviators who came before her, Collins packed a scarf once worn by Amelia Earhart and keepsakes from the Mercury 13 ladies.
Nelson said Funk gave Collins her pin from the Ninety Nines, the international organization for female pilots.
“A little part of her already went up,” said Nelson. All of the women have passed away except Funk and Gene Nora Jessen, and Nelson is thrilled their story is being told once again.
“There have always been women figures in space history whether they’ve been mathematicians or engineers. They were in LIFE magazine,” said Nelson of the Mercury 13 women, adding, “They did get publicity but their history keeps getting forgotten.”
02 July, 2021 - 02:45pm
Virgin Galactic founderplans to join five company crewmates for a short up-and-down flight to sub-orbital space on July 11. Nine days later, Amazon founder plans to blast off on his own aboard a New Shepard spacecraft built by Blue Origin, a company he founded in 2000.
Both companies plan commercial operations flying wealthy space tourists, government and private-sector researchers and experiments that can take advantage of the few minutes of weightlessness the flights will offer.
Virgin has flown company pilots and engineers on three earlierabove the 50-mile altitude that NASA, the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration consider the lower boundary of space.
But Branson will be the first "passenger" to make such a flight and the first owner to reach space, scheduling his flight afterhis own launch date of July 20.
Branson said he's not in a race with his commercial space rival, but when an interviewer asked astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency what he thought about that, he smiled and said, "Everybody says it's not a race."
"I think it's good, I think you need some momentum, and being competitive is kind of part of the process," he told ABC News. "We think overall, this is a positive process. Wssssse think space needs to open up to more of the general public, to private enterprise and to all these initiatives. We think it's good. We think it's going to have a very positive impact for everybody in the future. And so we're glad to be part of it."
Blue Origin has launched its New Shepard spacecraft on 15 unpiloted test flights, but the July 20 launch will be the first with people on board.
Bezos will be joined by his brother Mark, the as-yet-unidentified winner of an on-line auction and by, an aviation pioneer who was one of 13 women barred from NASA's initially all-male astronaut corps in the 1960s. At 82, she will be the oldest person to fly in space.
"That's really fantastic," astronaut Shane Kimbrough told CBS News in an interview aboard the space station. "I want to wish her well, of course, and what a perfect choice to go into space and kind of put a little cherry on top of her amazing career. That's pretty awesome."
Along with the two upcoming sub-orbital flights, the Russians are preparing toand a producer to the space station for a 10-day commercial visit in October to shoot scenes for movie. The next Soyuz flight in December will feature a Japanese billionaire and his assistant.
Then in January, Houston-basedto send a retired astronaut and three civilian crewmates to the space station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. NASA plans to accommodate up to two "private astronaut missions" to the station every year.
"We think it's good that people invest in space," Pesquet told CBS News. "We're not doing it just to be members of an exclusive club, we're doing it because we think it's useful, we think there's a lot of gains for society by going into space, whether it'd be for the research or for the economy that we could develop in low-Earth orbit and beyond."
He drew a parallel between the early days of commercial space activity and the dawn of commercial aviation.
"If you look at aviation at the beginning, there was a lot of pioneering and then it was seen as a luxury only for a bunch of happy few and then it became what it is today (enabling) people to travel around the world and learn about other cultures," he said. "It kind of makes the world a better place.
"So we're hoping that spaceflight is going to have the same trajectory. We think we're on that path. ... So opening up to public-private partnership and to private enterprise in low-Earth orbit is definitely a part of that."
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