Bezos’ space company announced Thursday that Wally Funk will be the “honorary guest” on the July 20 spaceflight from West Texas. In addition to the former pilot, he will be the brother of Bezos and the winner of a charity auction on the New Shepard missile, which It will spend ten minutes in outer space before returning to Earth.
Funk was one of the women in Mercury 13 who received astronaut training in the 1960s but couldn’t get out into space or join the NASA astronaut team because they were women. At the time, all NASA astronauts were male and military pilots.
In a video posted to Bezos’ Instagram, Funk told me he feels “cool” because of the invitation. As he added, nothing could hold him back.
“When I was told you’re a girl and you can’t do that, I thought it didn’t matter who the guy was, if he wanted to do something, he could do it. I’d love to do something no one used to do,” he said.
Funk, 82, will be the oldest man to ever go into space. It also beat John Glenn, who set the previous record at 77 years old in 1998, on a flight to the space shuttle Discovery.
Funk, Texas, was the first female FAA inspector and the first flight safety inspector in the National Transportation Safety Board. In the posted video, he said he had cut 19,600 hours and taught more than 3,000 people to fly.
The first American astronaut was Sally Ride, who died in 2012. Aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1995, Elaine Collins was the first American woman to serve as a pilot on a mission.
Cover Photo: Getty Images