An 82-year-old woman who trained as an astronaut 60 years ago will travel to space with Jeff Bezos

An 82-year-old woman who trained as an astronaut 60 years ago will travel to space with Jeff Bezos

New York (CNN Business) – After half a century of waiting, Wally Funk, who trained in NASA’s Mercury program but was denied the opportunity to go into space, is finally spending his time among the stars. She was chosen by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, to accompany him, his brother and the unknown auction winner on a sub-tropical flight on July 20.

Blue Origin announced Thursday that the 82-year-old will take fourth place on the first manned flight of its suborbital New Shepard spacecraft, along with Blue Origin founder, brother Mark Bezos and the auction winner who paid for it more than once. $28 million for the opportunity. (The auction winner has not yet been announced.)

Funk will fly to New Shepard as a “guest of honor,” according to Bezos’ Instagram post, which also shows Bezos revealing to Funk that he will be joining the mission. Then he smiled and shouted excitedly.

Funk volunteered as a member of Mercury 13, also known as the Women in Space Program, in February 1961, which was a privately funded effort to begin training women to fly in early programs. NASA spacecraft.

The 13 women in the program did all the training and testing conducted by the seven men selected by NASA for the Mercury Spaceflight program.

Funk became the youngest woman to graduate from the program, and was told “she did a better job and got the job done faster than any of the men,” she said during a promotional video of her participation in Blue’s Journey. the origin.

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Funk even spent 10 hours and 35 minutes inside a sensory deprivation tank on the Mercury 13 test, beating famed astronaut John Glenn.

“I called NASA four times and said, ‘I want to be an astronaut, but no one will accept me,'” Funk said. I didn’t think I would ever wake up. Nothing stands in my way. They say, “Wali, you girl, you can’t do that.” I said, “Guess what, no matter what you are, you can still do it if you want to,” and I like to do things no one else has done before.

Funk has extensive experience piloting aircraft, logged over 19,600 flying hours and taught more than 3,000 people how to fly private and commercial aircraft.

“I have a license for everything the FAA owns. And I can leave you behind,” he joked.

But Funk won’t need all that experience to fly the Blue Origin New Shepard. The fully autonomous spacecraft and rocket system is designed to allow nearly anyone to become an astronaut after just a few hours of safety briefing and training at Blue Origin facilities in West Texas.

New Shepard’s suborbital flights travel at about three times the speed of sound, about 3,700 kilometers per hour, and fly straight until the rocket has used up most of its fuel.

The crew capsule will detach from the rocket on the first part of the trajectory and briefly continue to ascend before the capsule will nearly fly into the first part of its flight path, giving passengers a few minutes of weightlessness.

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It acts as an extended version of the weightlessness you experience when you reach the top of the roller coaster, right before gravity makes your car, or, in this case, your space capsule, pulling you down.

The New Shepard capsule then deploys a large column of parachutes to slow its descent to less than 30 kilometers per hour before it hits the ground, and Bezos and his comrades will be more comfortable travelers with the shock-absorbing seats.

According to Funk’s profile in Watchman In 2019, Funk previously purchased a ticket aboard the semi-orbital spacecraft built by Virgin Galactic with support from Richard Branson, a direct competitor of Blue Origin who is still in the testing phase of their program and a date for your first commercial flight.

It is unclear whether Funk will also stick to his plans to fly Virgin Galactic.

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