spaceSpace and Physics

Mercury 13 Legend Wally Funk Is Finally Flying To Space After 60-Year Wait, Alongside Jeff Bezos


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockJul 1 2021, 17:54 UTC
Members of the Mercury 13 posing with the Space Shuttle in 1995. Image Credit: NASA

Members of the Mercury 13 posing with the Space Shuttle in 1995. From left to right: Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cagle, and Bernice Steadman. Image Credit: NASA

It's finally happening! Mary Wallace Funk, known by most as Wally, will finally go to space after a 60-year wait. She joins Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, and the mystery winner of a seat to be the fourth member of Blue Origin's first-ever human space flight on July 20.

Funk is an aviation legend. She was the first woman to become a National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator, the first woman to be a Federal Aviation Agency inspector, and has taught around 3,000 people to fly. But many will remember her as one of the so-called Mercury 13, the group of female aviators that underwent and passed all the same physiological screening tests necessary to join NASA's astronaut corps in 1961, but were excluded from going to space. 


As part of this program, Funk demonstrated that she and the other women had the qualities and qualifications needed to go to space. She actually scored even higher than John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth. Despite this, when NASA finally began to accept women as astronauts – Sally Ride would finally fly in 1983 – Funk was rejected three times for not having an engineering degree or a background as a test pilot.


This month, her long-sought goal to fly to space will finally become a reality. She will fly on the first crewed flight of Blue Origin's suborbital reusable rocket New Shepard and will reach 100 kilometers (62 miles) above the Earth’s surface for four minutes.

"No one has waited longer," Bezos said in an Instagram post alongside the video of him revealing Funk will be the fourth member. "I'll love every second of it," Funk said in the video. "I can hardly wait."


At 82, Funk will become the oldest person to ever fly to space and is proof that perhaps it's never too late to fulfill your dreams.

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