By most accounts, Wally Funk should have been to space by now.
In 1961, Funk was the youngest member of the “Mercury 13,” a group of 13 women privately tested and trained by a team of aviation medical experts for NASA’s astronaut program at the height of the space race. But the program, which put the women through the same rigorous testing as the Mercury 7, NASA’s all-male team of original astronauts, was canceled.
Sixty years later, Funk, 82, is poised to become the oldest person to reach space. Jeff Bezos announced in an Instagram post-Thursday that Funk would be joining him, his brother, Mark, and the unnamed winner of an auction aboard Blue Origin’s first crewed spaceflight on July 20, the anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.
Funk is a pioneer in aviation: She was the first female Federal Aviation Administration inspector and first female National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator. She has logged 19,600 hours of flight time and taught more than 3,000 people to fly, she said in Bezos’s Instagram video.
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