Before her historic space trip aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin spacecraft New Shepard, 82-year-old Wally Funk, who is also the oldest person to ever travel to space says she is not nervous at all. In a video chat with CBS News prior to the flight take off on Tuesday, sitting alongside her other crew mates, Wally said, “None of us is nervous. I just love the outdoors, and all things that come with it. I was never the ‘girl’ girl. I have waited a long time for this.”
Wally had to wait over half a century for this trip after she was not chosen to fly to space in 1960 due to her gender. She was part of Mercury 13 – a group of American women who underwent the physiological tests that astronauts selected by NASA did.
CNN had reported how Wally had been the youngest woman to graduate from the program, and she was told she “had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys," she said during a promotional video about her participation in the Blue Origin flight.
Funk even spent 10 hours and 35 minutes inside a sensory deprivation tank in one Mercury 13 test, outperforming famed astronaut John Glenn.
“I got a hold of NASA four times, and said ‘I want to become an astronaut,’ but nobody would take me," Funk said. “I didn’t think I would ever get to go up. Nothing has ever gotten in my way. They say, ‘Wally, you’re a girl, you can’t do that.’ I said, ‘Guess what, doesn’t matter what you are, you can still do it if you want to do it,’ and I like to do things that nobody’s ever done before."
In the CBS News chat, Jeff Bezos said: “Wally has got great determination and resilience. She is incredible.”
According to an AFP report, the New Shepard trip will last 10 minutes, four of which passengers will spend above the Karman line that marks the recognized boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space. The passengers will then be able to float weightlessly for a few minutes and observe the curvature of the Earth. Then the capsule will begin a free fall back to Earth, braked by three large parachutes and retrorockets before landing back in Texas.