Meet Wally Funk, woman, aviator, and the oldest person to travel to space at the age of 82. Funk joined Jeff Bezos on his journey to the stars this past July, achieving her dream of going to space.
When Funk was barely a year old, she discovered aviation thanks to her parents who took her to a nearby airport in their home state, New Mexico. Growing up, Funk did everything no one expected a girl to do. She rode her bike or her horse, skied, and went hunting and fishing. Her parents often encouraged her to be outdoors with the only thing expected of her was to be home washed up and wearing a dress for dinner. As Funk got older, the desire to fly got stronger. By the age of nine, she got her first flight lesson where she remembers “the air and how pretty it was, and how the ground looked.”. After the first lesson, Funk didn’t get to fly again until her teens where she enrolled at Stephens College and got her flying license. She then went on to study education at Oklahoma State University and joined an aviation team known as the Flying Aggies. Later on, Funk read an article about the Woman in Space Program that was run by William Randolph Lovelace, seeing if women were as capable as men to go to space. This gave her the opportunity to be the youngest participant in the program.
After many tests, Funk and twelve other women became known as the Mercury 13 passed and were going forward with the next phase of testing. Unfortunately, the Mercury 13 didn’t end up going to space due to the fact that the program was not sanctioned by NASA and was cancelled in doubts of whether women should take part in such a thing. Even with this setback, this didn’t stop Funk from finding another way to achieve her dream. She sought out more tests to prove her capability and even went to Russia to do more testing.
Funk often tried out for NASA’s training programs, but was rejected due to the lack of an engineering degree. She then continued to work as a flight instructor and later became the first female investigator for the Federal Aviation Administration where she investigated plane crashes.
Even after so many years, Funk’s dream of going to space never died. Fast forward to the year 2021, she finally achieved her lifelong dream and joined Jeff Bezos on Blue Origin. This trip set the record of the youngest and oldest person to go to space. Although it took decades for Funk to visit the stars, she still achieved her dream. When asked in an interview with “The Guardian”, if she could see a time where she would stop, “No!” Funk shouts, “I’ll be flying ‘til I die!”.
Read more on Wally Funk and the Blue Origin:
Jenny Duong is a newly recruited Social Media Intern at Hera Aviation Group. She currently studies Global Business and Marketing at Southern New Hampshire University.
Jenny enjoys traveling and often visits family in Vietnam during the summer. She also enjoys spending time with her dog, Macie, often binging reality TV together. Their current guilty pleasure is the Bachelor franchise! Her biggest inspiration are her two older siblings even after all the teasing.