Wally Funk: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know


Heavy.com 20 July, 2021 - 04:10pm

Did Wally Funk pay to go to space?

In fact, in 2010, Funk used her life savings to put a deposit of $200,000 on a ticket for a future Virgin Galactic flight — a trip that she's still planning to take, her agent recently told Insider. Traveling to space has been a lifelong dream for Funk, and she had no plans to let her gender or age stand in her way. Rolling StoneWally Funk’s 60-Year Journey Into Space

When is Jeff Bezos flight?

Jeff Bezos has big ambitions in space. The Amazon.com Inc. AMZN 0.66% founder plans to make his own first visit with a flight scheduled to launch at 9 a.m EDT on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The Wall Street JournalWhen Is Jeff Bezos’ Flight to Space and How to Watch the Blue Origin Launch

Wally Funk was a member of the Mercury 13, a group of skilled female pilots who were excluded from NASA’s first missions to space. Today, Funk will have a lifelong dream fulfilled as a member of the Blue Origin flight crew.

Funk, whose full name is Mary Wallace Funk, was invited to be a crew member on the New Shepard’s first manned space flight at age 82. Blue Origin, the company founded by Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man and Amazon’s CEO in 2000, has been testing flights of its New Shepard rocket for years, according to CNBC. The space flight took place the morning of Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

After the successful flight, Funk emerged from the New Shepard capsule with her arms spread out wide and a smile on her face. Funk told CNN after returning to Earth, “I loved every minute of it. I just wish it had been longer…and could do a lot more rolls and twists and so forth. But I loved it I can hardly wait to go again.”

Here’s what you need to know:

'Mercury 13' pilot Wally Funk will carry 60 years of history to space on Blue Origin flight https://t.co/NQoSvpd4pQ pic.twitter.com/umGiObzkm4

— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) July 19, 2021

Funk was one of 13 women who came to be known as the Mercury 13. The Mercury 13 were skilled pilots that trained to be a part of NASA’s spaceflight program before it began including women. The women were named in contrast to the Mercury 7, a group of seven male astronauts who were selected by NASA for the Mercury program, according to Space.com.

“Wally Funk has really never given up on her dream of spaceflight,” Margaret Weitekamp, curator of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s space history department, told Space.com. “There’s a nice bit of poetic justice in including her on this flight.”

Weitekamp also wrote a book about the Mercury 13. The Mercury 7 were chosen in 1959.

— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) July 19, 2021

While Funk was thwarted from her mission of becoming one of the first female astronauts in space, she will still make history with her flight. The New Shepard’s flight will be the first of its kind when it reaches an altitude of 100 kilometers. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic crossed the 80 kilometer threshold, but has not been able to cross 100 kilometers, according to CNBC.

Funk will also be the oldest person in space, according to Blue Origin’s press statement. She will join the youngest person in space, Oliver Daemon, 18.

“Today, Blue Origin announced Oliver Daemen will be the first paying customer to fly on board New Shepard, marking the beginning of commercial operations for the program,” the July 15 statement said. “He will join Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, and Wally Funk aboard the first human flight on July 20. At 18-years-old and 82-years-young, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk represent the youngest and oldest astronauts to travel to space.”

The Blue Origin crew meeting up at the company’s rocket barn in Texas:

Wally Funk: “Honey, I couldn’t be better … I’m gonna be in that window!!” pic.twitter.com/vhGaMqqjnZ

— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) July 17, 2021

Funk told The Guardian she never married, saying she is “married to airplanes.” She said in the interview that she carried no resentment over being grounded from spaceflight.

In 1995, when Eileen Collins became the first female pilot in space, Funk was at the launch pad crying out, “Go Eileen. Go for all of us,” the article said.

“I wasn’t a bra burner, I’m not a political person,” Funk told The Guardian. “I saw there was an old-boys’ network, but my philosophy has always been to get over it, and move on.”

Nearly 60 years after passing her astronaut test, 82-year-old Wally Funk is finally going to space 🚀 pic.twitter.com/ghXDieXwYh

— NowThis (@nowthisnews) July 18, 2021

Funk told The Guardian in 2002 she learned to fly at 16 after developing an early fascination in flight.

“I first flew in a plane at eight, and by the age of 10 I had mother drive me out to an airstrip to study the planes parked there,” Funk told The Guardian.

Her childhood hero was Amelia Earheart, she told the publication. When she started flying at 16, she knew it would be a lifelong passion.

“I knew then I wanted to fly for life.”

But when she applied to become a commercial pilot at both TWA and Continental, she told The Guardian she was rejected, saying they couldn’t hire her because “they didn’t have a ladies bathroom at the training facility.”

“For 40 years she has taught flying, both private and commercial, (she has 16,500 hours in the air and has soloed 800 student pilots), in addition, she became the first female investigator of the National Transportation Safety Board,” The Guardian reported.

Wally Funk, 82, will be the oldest person ever to travel to space on Tuesday, in Jeff Bezos’ rocket. She has probably spent more time in airplanes as a pilot than the three men she is going to space with have spent as airplane passengers. https://t.co/4AnSX56hHW

— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 19, 2021

Sue Nelson, a science journalist who traveled with Funk, called her to congratulate her on her flight, Nelson told Space.com.

“Her aim was to not only to just do it to the best of her ability, every test, but to try to do better than whoever had gone before her,” said Nelson, who traveled with Funk to research her book, “Wally Funk’s Race for Space.” “She just is immensely driven and competitive, which is a sort of the typical early astronaut, test pilot type really — she fits the mold of those early astronauts.”

Nelson recalled the conversation when she called to congratulate her friend in an interview with Space.com. Funk echoed a sentiment from the launch of the first female astronaut on the phone call.

“She said, ‘I’ve waited a lifetime, honey,'” Nelson told Space.com. “And then she said, ‘I’m going up for all of us.'”

Read full article at Heavy.com

Meanwhile... Wally Funk Is The Star Of Bezos' Blue Origin Space Mission

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert 21 July, 2021 - 05:10am

Wally Funk, Mercury 13 member, flies into space with Jeff Bezos on Blue Origin

The Washington Post 21 July, 2021 - 05:10am

She couldn’t see or hear. There was nothing to taste or smell. When she patted the eight feet of water surrounding her, she didn’t feel it.

Within months, Funk’s dream was squelched. NASA had no program for female astronauts, she learned in a perfunctory telegram. Without that federal support, her privately funded testing program would end.

Funk, 82, finally saw her aspiration come to life Tuesday when she launched on aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin’s first crewed spaceflight alongside billionaire Jeff Bezos and two other people. Exiting the spacecraft after landing, she grinned and spread her arms wide in celebration. (Bezos, the founder of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)

Funk’s journey to this milestone began in 1960, when she read in Life magazine that a female pilot named Jerrie Cobb was undergoing sensory deprivation testing to see how women’s bodies would hold up in space.

“So [I was] thinking, ‘Oh! This is really what I want to do!’ ” Funk told Margaret Weitekamp for her book “Right Stuff, Wrong Sex: America’s First Women in Space Program.” “I mean, there weren’t a lot of things back in the sixties for girls to do.”

Already an accomplished pilot, Funk wrote to the doctor running the tests and volunteered to participate. He referred her to Randy Lovelace, another doctor helping examine potential male astronauts for NASA’s Mercury program. At the time, space-travel jobs required experience as a military pilot — a type of service for which women were ineligible.

Lovelace began thinking about also studying women’s fitness for space travel in 1959 while he was attending an aviation conference in Miami. Lovelace and Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Flickinger started to wonder how women would physically handle being in space, Funk wrote later. The Cold War was on the horizon, and Flickinger had heard that the Soviet Union was preparing to send a woman into space. If the United States wanted to do so first, it would have to move quickly.

There were also practical reasons for their curiosity. Lovelace was a visionary who imagined orbiting space stations with astronauts researching unexplored areas of the universe, Weitekamp, a curator at the National Air and Space Museum, told The Washington Post. But she said Lovelace was also a product of his time who thought the stations would need to fill “women’s jobs” — secretaries, nurses and telephone operators.

Speculation that women’s bodies might be better adapted to space than men’s added to the intrigue, Weitekamp said. Women tended to eat less, need less oxygen, have fewer heart attacks and be physically smaller.

Cobb, a pilot, became the first woman to put that thinking to the test. When she performed well on the same tests as the male astronauts, Lovelace compiled a list of eligible women to continue the experiment. The women needed to be under 35 and in good health, and have completed more than 2,000 hours of flying, among other qualifications, Funk wrote.

Funk reached out to Lovelace and soon became one of 25 women undergoing strenuous physical and psychological tests as part of the Women in Space Program in Albuquerque. While the women took the same tests as NASA’s male astronauts, NASA did not sponsor Lovelace’s endeavor.

The intensive battery of tests spanned five days. Funk, the youngest woman, ranked third. Although the women who passed became known as the Mercury 13, most didn’t meet at the time.

Lovelace’s program didn’t come with a promise of becoming an astronaut. Still, Weitekamp said, everyone interested in space travel knew Lovelace was closely linked to NASA’s attempts at space travel.

“If you talked to him,” Weitekamp said, “it would have been very easy to get swept up in the excitement of what was possible and not have spent quite as much time and attention on when that might happen and how that might happen.”

In September 1961, the Mercury 13 were preparing to go to Naval Air Station Pensacola in North Florida for a third round of tests. Cobb wrote to her fellow aspiring space travelers about their upcoming chance to meet. She began the letter: “Dear Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainee,” branding the women “FLATs.”

Then the initiative came to an abrupt halt, Weitekamp said. The project was canceled, and the women could return to the rest of their lives, Lovelace’s administrative staffers told Funk and the others in a short telegram. They gave little explanation.

“Increasingly with retrospect, one sees the injustice done particularly to these women — that they were very capable pilots and talented physically in a moment when the United States, whether in the space program or otherwise, just didn’t have the capacity to recognize or reward that,” Weitekamp said.

It eventually became clear that NASA didn’t have a testing program for women, and the military was unwilling to let Lovelace use its facility. Few people advocated for female astronauts, Weitekamp said, including Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was generally viewed as an advocate for women. When his assistant wrote a letter for him, asking NASA about moving forward with the women’s training, he refused to sign it, Weitekamp said.

In congressional hearings the next year, NASA officials testified that they were focused on landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade, as President John F. Kennedy had ordered. The agency had no capacity to pursue additional goals simultaneously.

John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, blamed society for the women’s missed opportunity.

“I think this gets back to the way our social order is organized really. It is just a fact,” he testified, according to Popular Science. “The men go off and fight the wars and fly the airplanes and come back and help design and build and test them. The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order.”

Funk was undeterred. She found her own opportunities to take more exams, including a high-altitude test, a seat-ejection exam and a centrifuge test that simulated the gravitational forces of liftoff and reentry. Funk remained convinced that she would make it to space someday.

“When I met her in 1997,” Weitekamp said, “she was talking then about, ‘I’m going into space. I will figure out a way to do this.’ ”

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