Wally Funk made history on Tuesday when at 82 years of age, she became the oldest person to ever fly into space. She did so with billionaire Jeff Bezos on his Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft.
The trip was a dream come true for her, as she had been pining to go into space for over fifty years.
“Now I’m gonna go up with the best team every and we’re gonna show the world what can be done in space,” Funk told Fox4News before the launch. “Woohoo! I can hardly wait.”
Born in Texas in 1939, Funk graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1960 with a degree in secondary education, according to Business Insider. Not long after that, she became the first female flight instructor at a U.S. military base.
In 1961, Funk volunteered to join the Women in Space program, which was a group of female aviators who underwent testing and training in the hopes of becoming astronauts for the first American human spaceflight program.
Dubbed the First Lady Astronaut Trainees, or FLATs, the group is better known to many by the name Mercury 13. Funk was the youngest woman in the program.
Though the training was both grueling and rigorous, all of the women were denied the chance to go into space, and the program was soon shut down. Meanwhile, all of their male peers in the group known as Mercury Seven made it into space.
Undeterred, Funk applied to NASA in the 1970s, when female astronauts first started being trained by the agency, but she was denied four times. She then became the first female Federal Aviation Administration inspector, as well as the first female air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.
On Tuesday, Funk’s space dream finally came true when she finally got to travel into space, becoming the oldest person to ever do so. Her friend Laurie Williams described her as the poster child for “it’s never too late to live your dream.”
“As a member of our congregation, she brings an energy level that’s like none other,” she said. “I asked her how excited she was, and she said, ‘Honey, I’m going to be excited once I get off of the ship. It hasn’t happened yet. I’ve waited all these years, and i just can’t wait.’”
Joining Funk on the flight was Bezos, his younger brother Mark, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen from the Netherlands.
“The neat thing about that is that Wally loves younger generations,” Williams added. “And she loves to sow into that enthusiasm for aviation. That couldn’t have been a better pairing.”
Funk wasn’t allowed to bring much on her journey to space, but she made sure to bring a piece of home with her to the heavens.
“We wear these bracelets “God is Big enough” here at the church, and she is taking my bracelet with her to space,” Williams said. “Because God did this for her.”
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