After training for NASA’s Mercury program but never getting the chance to go on her mission, Wally Funk will finally be able to live her dream and blast off, thanks to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Bezos announced that the 82-year-old pilot will accompany him and his brother Mark Bezos on the Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital trip scheduled for July 20.
She will be the oldest person to fly to space. The current record is held by John Glenn, who was 77 when he flew on the space shuttle Discovery in 1998, The Guardian reported.
Funk is being called an “honored guest.” Bezos shared the news of Funk’s selection on Instagram.
A fourth seat will be filled by the winner of an auction who paid $28 million to go on the trip.
Funk was chosen for the Mercury 13 “Women in Space Program.” She was at the top of her class but despite completing the training, she and the other members of the program never flew to space.
Funk said in the video she has 19,600 flying hours under her belt, has taught more than 3,000 people to fly and said that “everything the FAA has, I’ve got the license for.”
She was also the first female FAA inspector and the first female NTSB air safety investigator, according to a Blue Origin news release.
She said in the announcement video on Instagram she had asked NASA to make her an astronaut four times, but they always said no. She said she never thought she would have this opportunity.
Despite her experience in flying, the Blue Origin’s New Shepard is fully autonomous, CNN reported, and it goes fast — about 2,300 miles per hour, CNN reported. It will launch straight up and when most of the fuel has been burned up, the capsule will release from the rocket, shooting off and allowing the passengers a couple of minutes of feeling weightlessness. Then gravity helps bring the capsule back to Earth, landing safely thanks to parachutes and shock-absorbent seats.
The date July 20 is significant in the history of NASA, as that was the day that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in 1969, according to The Washington Post.