Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has picked the fourth passenger who will accompany him and his brother along with an unknown auction winner on a space trip. The fourth passenger is 82-year-old Wally Funk, who was trained to be an astronaut almost sixty years ago. After a half-century of waiting, she is now going to space with the billionaire. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration trained funk for its Mercury program in the 1960s. But she did not get the opportunity to go to space because of her gender. However, she has now got the opportunity to be amongst the stars. She will accompany the world riches person on a suborbital trip on July 20th. According to a post by Bezos on Instagram, Funk will fly with him as an ‘honored guest.’ The post shows how Funk beams and yells when Bezos reveals to her that she will be going to space. Kent-headquartered Blue Origin has announced that Funk will be onboard the inaugural crewed flight of its New Shepard. One person for the spaceflight was selected through auction, and the highest bidders forked over USD 28 million for the opportunity. The name of the person has been kept secret. According to some reports, Funk has purchased a ticket for traveling to space onboard the suborbital spaceplane built by the Virgin Galactic. It is not clear whether Funk is still ready to fly with Virgin Galactic as well.
Funk was one of the members of the team who volunteered for the ‘Mercury 13’ program. The program, which otherwise was known as the ‘Women in Space Program,’ was a privately funded program. The intention of the program was to begin training women so that they can fly in NASA’s earliest space programs. These women took all the training as their male counterparts selected by the American space agency. NASA had selected seven men for the Mercury spaceflight program. Funk was the youngest woman to complete the program. Funk was told that she performed better than any of the guys and even managed to complete the work faster. Funk said during a promotional video for Blue Origin that she spent more than 10 hours inside a sensory deprivation tank in one Mercury 13 test. According to Funk, she even outperformed famous astronaut John Glenn. “I got in contact with NASA four times and tried to tell them that I want to be an astronaut. But nobody would ever listen to me. I didn’t think that I would ever get an opportunity to go up in the space. There was nothing that I can’t do. But people would say that ‘Wally you are a girl, and you cannot do that.’ And I would always say that anybody can do anything. I would tell them I like to do things that nobody has ever done.”
With over 19,600 flying hours on her name, along with teaching more than 3,000 people to fly private and commercial planes, Funk has extensive experience in piloting aircraft. “Everything the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has, I have got a license for. And I can outrun you,” Funk joked. But Funk needs not all those expertise to go to space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle. This is because New Shepard has been designed to allow anyone literally to become an astronaut. This is because the spacecraft is fully autonomous, and those traveling aboard it will require only a few hours of safety instructions and training. Blue Origin will provide this training at its West Texas facilities. New Shepard will travel at a speed of three times the speed of sound during the flight. Once the rocket uses most of its fuel, the crew capsule will separate from it and will continue to move upward briefly. The capsule will then hover over at the top of its flight. During this time, passengers will feel the weightlessness for a few minutes. While coming downward, the New Shepard capsule will deploy a large plume of parachutes to bring down the descent speed to less than 20 miles per hour before it lands on the ground.