Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Woman, 82, to join billionaire Bezos’ first passenger space flight

She underwent astronaut training in the 1960s but never made it into space.

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An 82-year-old woman who has spent six decades trying to reach space will join billionaire Jeff Bezos on the first human-crewed flight by his space company later this month.

Wally Funk, who underwent astronaut training in the 1960s, will become the oldest person to ever fly to space.

Bezos has invited her as an “honoured guest”, who will join the Amazon founder, his brother Mark and a mystery person who paid US$28 million at auction for a seat.

The company plans to take its amateur astronauts more than 100km above the Earth’s surface, allowing them to experience microgravity. Their capsule will then return to Earth using parachutes to slow its descent, on a trip expected to last about 10 minutes in total.

In a two-minute clip posted online, Bezos is seen telling a surprised and delighted Funk that she has been chosen for the trip.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get to go up,” she says in the video.

Born in the US state of New Mexico in 1939, she has had a life-long love of flying and aviation.

She has logged nearly 20,000 flying hours across her career and taught over 3,000 people to fly.

She has already made history a number of times by becoming the first woman to serve on several important federal aviation boards, but she never made it into space.

She volunteered in 1961 for the Women in Space programme where she underwent the rigorous physical and mental testing in the hope of becoming an astronaut, but the scheme was cancelled.

She has already paid US$200,000 for a ticket for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic programme, which recently got FAA approval to start taking paying customers on its own space missions.

“I can’t tell people how fabulous I feel to have been picked by Blue Origin to go on this trip” she says in the video, adding she expects to “love every second” of the journey.

Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s richest people, created Blue Origin in 2000 and announced last month that he and his brother would embark on the flight, describing it as something he had wanted to do all his life.

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