Fulfilling a lifelong mission to become an astronaut, Wally Funk will fly to space on New Shepard’s first human flight on July 20 as an honored guest. She will join Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, and the auction winner on the flight.
Wally’s journey to space began in the 1960s when she was the youngest graduate of the Woman in Space Program, a privately-funded project which tested female pilots for astronaut fitness. Later known as the “Mercury 13” – thirteen American women successfully underwent the same physiological and psychological screening tests as the astronauts selected by NASA for Project Mercury, but they never flew to space. Wally was the youngest graduate of this program.
She was the first female FAA inspector and first female NTSB air safety investigator. The 82-year-old pilot will now be part of the first crew on New Shepard, and the oldest person ever to fly to space.
Here’s the moment Jeff Bezos asked Wally Funk to join our first human flight on July 20 as his honored guest:
Blue Origin will launch Mercury 13's famous Wally Funk with Jeff Bezos
Wally Funk, a famous aviator who pushed for female inclusion in NASA's astronaut training programs for decades, will join billionaire Jeff Bezos later this month on a brief flight to the edge of space.
On Thursday, the 82-year-old was confirmed as the third member of Blue Origin's first crewed New Shepard mission slated to launch July 20. Bezos, his brother Mark, Funk, and the to-be-announced winner of a $28 million auction will make up a four-person crew flying the 60-foot rocket from West Texas to the edge of space.
Funk will occupy the role of "honored guest" on the 11-minute flight and, if everything goes according to plan, fulfill a lifelong dream.
She was the youngest graduate of the privately funded "Woman in Space Program" of the 1960s that put 13 experienced female pilots through the rigors of astronaut training. They became known as the "Mercury 13," a reference to the "Mercury 7" group of seven men who later flew Mercury, Gemini, and eventually Apollo missions to the moon.
None of the women were selected for full NASA missions.
"They told me that I had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys," Funk said in a video posted to Bezos' Instagram account. "So I got a hold of NASA four times and told them I wanted to become an astronaut, but no one would take me."
"I never thought that I would get to go up," she said.
The mission, dubbed NS-16, is critical to Blue's success. Bezos founded the company in 2000 as a way to fulfill his personal dream of spaceflight, build the infrastructure for space tourism, and help enable a future when millions of people live and work in space.
Named after first American in space Alan Shepard, New Shepard is Blue's tourism-focused vehicle and flies exclusively from privately owned land in West Texas. The much larger New Glenn, meanwhile, is designed to haul more in the way of humans and cargo from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Named after astronaut John Glenn, that rocket's first flight is expected before the end of 2022.
From "Mercury 13" to today, Funk has accrued nearly 20,000 flight hours. Her accomplishments include becoming the first female Federal Aviation Administration inspector and the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.
After liftoff on July 20, she will also become the oldest person to travel to space.
"It 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," Funk said.
Quelle: Florida Today
18-year-old joining Blue Origin's 1st passenger spaceflight
An 18-year-old from the Netherlands is about to become the youngest person in space
FAA approves Jeff Bezos' space launch
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- An 18-year-old is about to become the youngest person in space, rocketing away with an aviation pioneer who will become the oldest at age 82.
Blue Origin announced Thursday that instead of a $28 million auction winner launching with founder Jeff Bezos on Tuesday, the Dutch son of another bidder will be on board. The company said Oliver Daemen will be the first paying customer, but did not disclose the price of his ticket. But a family spokesperson said it will be considerably less than the winning bid.
Daemen snagged the fourth and last seat on the space capsule after the auction winner stepped aside because of a scheduling conflict. The offer came in a surprise phone call from Blue Origin last week, he said.
“This is so unbelievably cool!" Daemen said in a statement. “The flight to and into space only takes 10 minutes, but I already know that these will be the most special 10 minutes of my life.”
He added in a video posted by Dutch broadcaster RTL: “I am super excited to experience zero-g and see the world from above.”
Also on Blue Origin’s first launch with passengers: Bezos’ brother and Wally Funk, one of 13 female pilots who went through the same tests in the early 1960s as NASA's Mercury 7 astronauts but never made it into space because only men were allowed.
The four will blast off from West Texas atop a New Shepard rocket for a 10-minute flight. The Amazon founder will become the second person to ride his own rocket into space, following Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson by nine days.
The teen tourist was going to be on the second launch for paying customers, according to Blue Origin. But once the auction winner dropped out, the company seized on the idea of flying the oldest and youngest people in space on the same flight, the family spokesperson noted.
His undisclosed ticket cost will be donated to charity, just as most of the winning $28 million was distributed this week to a variety of space education and advocacy groups.
“This marks the beginning of commercial operations for New Shepard, and Oliver represents a new generation of people who will help us build a road to space,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said in a statement.
Blue Origin has yet to open ticket sales to the public or disclose its anticipated prices. That’s expected following the upcoming flight.
Daemen took a year off after graduating from high school last year to obtain his private pilot’s license. He’ll attend the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands in September.
His father is Joes Daemen, founder and CEO of Somerset Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Oisterwijk, Netherlands. Both father and son were on their way to Texas on Thursday to prepare for the launch, according to their spokesperson..
The elder Daemen said he bid on the seat during the June 12 auction. “But when the bids started to skyrocket during the auction, we dropped out,” he said in a statement.
Blue Origin said the unidentified auction winner will catch a future flight.
Daemen already has gotten some good space-traveling advice from Dutch astronaut and two-time space flier Andre Kuipers. According to the statement, Kuipers told him "not to make the classic mistake of taking pictures in the short time he is up, but to fully enjoy the view of our beautiful planet.”
Soviet cosmonaut Ghermon Titov holds the record for the youngest to fly in space. He was 25 when he blasted into orbit four months after Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space. John Glenn was 77 when he launched aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1998, 37 years after becoming the first American to orbit the world.