Who is going to space with Jeff Bezos?
Wally Funk was supposed to go to space 60 years ago. Now she's going with Jeff Bezos. The Washington PostWally Funk was supposed to go to space 60 years ago. Now she’s going with Jeff Bezos.
The obvious downside, which she was too polite to mention, is that she has to ride with Bezos, his brother and one other, in a kind of UberPool from hell. She ought to have been more specific to the genie. Midlife does strange things to men, and so does being a billionaire. The combination leads to some odd outcomes. Not content with building his own rockets, Jeff, as he approaches 60, has decided to start riding them as well. Towers and yachts are so passé. Private space travel is the thing. Elon Musk is at it, too, and presumably a load of guys in China.
To fund his exploits, Jeff sells about $1bn of Amazon stock every year, in the way that others might save up for a golf weekend. When you have reached his level of capital, Jeff has said, there are a limited number of things you can spend the money on, which is true if your frame of reference is only “hobbies”. There are plenty of billionaires showing that you can be much more creative with your largesse. Only last year, Bill Gates created a pandemic as a pretext for injecting everyone with 5G-enabled mind-control nanobots.
Not to be outdone, England’s own Sir Richard Branson responded to Bezos’s announcement by saying he would go up on his own Virgin Galactic ship, SpaceShipTwo, nine days before Jeff and co. Branson is the original and worst ego-spaceflight tycoon. Since Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004, the company has established a reputation for glorious ineptitude, a kind of Virgin Trains of the skies with the advantage that nobody has to use it to commute.
The low point was the death of the pilot Michael Alsbury in 2014, but Galactic has consistently overpromised and underdelivered. Whenever Branson talks about space he sounds like a schoolmate who has never quite got his act together and instead reverts to unrealistic dreams.
Before we know it, he will be retraining in reflexology. Virgin Homeopathic. True to form, his flight on 11 July won’t even technically go into space, merely quite high in the sky. EasyJet would have been cheaper. ”My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars,” Branson said. I think it might have been a metaphor, Richard.
It represents a peculiar point in evolutionary history. The first monkeys in space went very much against their will. Now the most privileged and powerful monkeys of all are battling for the chance. At work, these men fight to replace human employees with robots. Then in their free time they insist on leisure activities that obviously ought to be done by robots.
At the time of writing, the fourth passenger on the Bezos mission has yet to be announced. We only know they bought the ticket at auction, paying $28m for the privilege. Wally must be anxious. Thinking about it, there is an ideal British candidate, a man who is familiar with paying a high price for travel with eccentric billionaires. Prince Andrew, your helmet awaits.
Read full article at CNBC
05 July, 2021 - 11:00am
Funk trained to be an astronaut sixty years ago as part of NASA’s “Women in Space Program”.
Last month, I reported that Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos and his brother were joining the crewed Blue Origin flight into space on July 20th.
Now Bezos has completed crew selection on his new venture’s first “manned” flight, with the addition of Wally Funk, who was among the 13 women who passed NASA’s astronaut training program in the 1960s.
Funk, 82, will be the oldest person ever to travel into space, Blue Origin said in an announcement on Thursday.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get to go up,” Funk said in a video interview posted on the company’s website.
Funk, then a 21-year-old pilot, was the youngest of the 13 women who passed the same rigorous testing as the Mercury Seven male astronauts in NASA’s program that first sent Americans into space between 1961 and 1963, but were denied the chance to become astronauts themselves because of their gender.
The joy on Funk’s face when the announcement was made was radiant.
A fourth passenger, whose name has not yet been released by the company hasn’t revealed paid more than $29 million for the fourth seat.
According to a fact sheet from Blue Origin, Funk at one point was placed in a sensory deprivation tank for 10 hours, 35 minutes, setting a record and scoring higher than astronaut John Glenn in the test.
Blue Origin chose the July 20 date partly because it is the 52nd anniversary of the first moon landing.
Funk has a very impressive aviation credentials.
Funk volunteered as a member of the “Mercury 13” program, otherwise known as the “Women in Space Program,” in February of 1961, which was a privately-funded effort intended to begin training women to fly in NASA’s earliest space programs. The 13 women in the program undertook all of the training and testing that the seven men selected by NASA for the Mercury spaceflight program undertook.
Funk became the youngest woman to graduate from the program, and she was told she “had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys,” she said during a promotional video about her participation in the Blue Origin flight.
Funk even spent 10 hours and 35 minutes inside a sensory deprivation tank in one Mercury 13 test, outperforming famed astronaut John Glenn.
…Funk has extensive experience piloting aircraft, logging over 19,600 flying hours and teaching more than 3,000 people how to fly private and commercial aircraft.
“Everything the FAA has, I’ve got the license for. And I can outrun you,” she joked.
And while Funk, indeed, may be the most qualified member of the Blue Origin crew flying, I think there is an ulterior motive to Bezos’ choice. Over 75,000 people signed the petition to wanting Bezos to never return to Earth. I suspect many of those who signed would, however, like to see Funk land safely after having had her dream trip into Earth’s orbit.
It seems like they would want some test flights first.
Yeah. I really hope these people aren’t killed.
I tell you, the fact Bezos himself is gonna be on the first flight really smacks of hubris.
It feels like he’s gonna be standing on a hill in a lightning storm giving God the finger
“Funk even spent 10 hours and 35 minutes inside a sensory deprivation tank in one Mercury 13 test, outperforming famed astronaut John Glenn.”
1961: that was 60 years ago.
In 1961 Eisenhower was president of the US, Obama was born in Kenya and Barbie got a new boyfriend named Ken. In 2021 Eisenhower is long forgotten, Obama is now ex-president and Jeff gets a new girlfriend Funk.
I am also happy for her, ride funky ride
Even a broken bezo clock is right twice a day!
“Even a broken bezo clock is right twice a day!”
A broken digital clock won’t be right even once in a century.
The first flight of Blue Origin is looking more and more like a one-way trip.
Too bad Jerry Cobb passed away in 2019.. She also was one of the 13. All were equal to or superior to the Mercury 7..
So they say, as a woman I want to see the test results.
NASA has had rather interesting selection parameters over the years. I’d put Jerry Cobb up against any of the Mercury 7 for capability but from day one it was run as a military op. Until the shuttle, there was no “stick and rudder” needed except to visit construction sites… Bassett being the example. The true challenge to early space flight was dealing with the “unknown” and that is more between the ears than muscle memory.
This has all the potential to be another “teacher in space” fiasco. BTW, per Breitbart, Bezos has retired from Amazon.
04 July, 2021 - 12:57pm
Blue Origins will briefly fly to space this month with the company's very first crewed flight pencilled in for July 20. Launching aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket, the world's richest man and former Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, will be joined by a number of special guests. The billionaire will be accompanied by his brother Mark, a mystery auction winner who paid £20million ($28million) for the privilege, and guest-of-honour Wally Funk.
The billionaire tells the 82-year-old woman: "We're going to fly you into space on the very first flight."
The pair then spontaneously hug it out with a laugh and big smiles on their faces.
Ms Funk then tells the camera: "I can't tell people that are watching how fabulous I feel to have been picked by Blue Origin to go on this trip. And I'll love every second of it."
While NASA was busy training America's first class of seven astronauts in the 1950s and 1960s, the so-called Mercury 7, a private enterprise was underway to train America's first female astronauts.
These 13 women were known as the Mercury 13 and underwent the same rigorous screening as the Mercury 7, and in many cases appeared to outperform their male competition.
Unfortunately, due to the patriarchal sentiments of the time, women were deemed unfit to become astronauts.
Despite their best efforts and a congressional committee held in 1962, the Mercury 13 were prevented from joining NASA's programme.
It was not until 1978 that women first joined NASA's Astronaut Group 8, with Sally Ride becoming the first American woman in space.
Meanwhile, the honour of being the first female astronaut went to Russian engineer Valentina Tereshkova who became a cosmonaut in 1963 on the Vostok 6 mission.
After her time in the Mercury 13, Ms Funk went on to have an illustrious career as an air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.
But she has also spent a lifetime searching for ways in which she could finally become an astronaut - and Blue Origin could finally be her big break.
Born in Las Vegas, New Mexico, in 1939, a young Wally Funk grew up in Taos, New Mexico.
From a young age, she has had a fascination with planes and aviation.
By the age of nine, she has had her first flying lesson - and would later in life go on to become the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
In 1958 she graduated with a pilot's license and continued to impress with her flying skills, receiving numerous trophies and awards.
In 1964, Stephen's College recognised her with the Alumna Achievement Award, making her the youngest woman in history to claim the title.
At the age of 20, she became a professional aviator and in 1961 volunteered for the privately organised Women in Space programme.
The programme was not a part of NASA nor was it an official ticket into space - but for a while, it seemed as though the women of the Mercury 13 had a good chance of earning their wings.
Ultimately government officials decided only male aviators could qualify to train for the coveted astronaut role.
In the preface to the 2018 book, Wally Funk's Race for Space, author Sue Nelson described Ms Funk as a force of nature but also living, breathing history.
She wrote: "Wally is also the sort of woman who, if history had been kinder, might have been the first woman on the Moon.
"She has spent over 50 years trying to become an astronaut and get into space and is now, with the birth of commercial spaceflight, the closest she has ever been. It is a desire I can understand."
After the Women in Space programme was cancelled, Ms Funk went on to become a Goodwill Ambassador and the first female Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) inspector.
She continued to apply to NASA to join the astronaut training programme in the 1970s but to no avail.
When she finally flies aboard the New Shepard this month, she will become the oldest person to fly into space at 82.
The women of the trailblazing group were: