Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Thursday that the fourth passenger on the first crewed flight of his space tourism company Blue Origin will be Wally Funk, a participant in the Mercury 13 program, which began recruiting female astronauts in the 1960s. had demanded.
The 82-year-old Funk will become the oldest person to fly in space when Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launches on July 20, the company said.
Blue Origin said Funk was also the first female Federal Aviation Administration Inspector and the first female National Transportation Safety Board Air Safety Investigator.
She will join Bezos and his brother Mark, the unidentified man who paid $28 million at auction to secure a seat on the six-seat craft’s inaugural manned flight.
Bezos announced the news on Instagram with a video of himself and Funk.
“In 1961, Wally Funk topped her class as part of the ‘Mercury 13’ Woman in Space program. Despite completing her training, the program was cancelled, and none of the thirteen flew ,” Bezos explained.
“It’s time,” he said.
In a video posted on Instagram, Bezos asked Funk what she would say after touching back on Earth.
“I’ll say, ‘Honey, this is the best thing that’s happened to me’ and give you a hug!” Funk responds.
She says she is “flying forever” and has amassed 19,600 flight hours.
“Everything that the FAA has, I have the license,” she said. “And I can overtake you.”
Funk also recalled his time in the Mercury 13 program, which was privately funded and separate from NASA’s efforts to recruit the first American astronauts.
“He told me I did a better job than any guy and got the job done faster,” she said. “So I caught up on NASA four times. I said, ‘I want to be an astronaut,’ but no one will take me.”
“I didn’t think I’d ever have to go up there,” she said. “He said, ‘Wally, you’re a girl! You can’t do that!’ I said, ‘Guess what? No matter what you are. You still can if you want to do it. And I love doing things no one has ever done.'”
Bezos announced last month that he would be on a July 20 flight, making him the billionaire space tycoon to actually fly into space.