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Jeff Bezos Picks Woman Who Was Denied Astronaut Training To Go To Space With Him

by : Hannah Smith on : 01 Jul 2021 17:08
Jeff Bezos Picks Woman Who Was Denied Astronaut Training To Go To Space With HimPA Images

An 82-year old woman who was denied the chance to become an astronaut because of her gender has been selected by Jeff Bezos to go to space with him this month.

Wally Funk will also become the oldest person to go to space when she travels onboard the New Shepard – a sub-orbital spacecraft developed by Bezos’ spaceflight company Blue Origin – on July 20.

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Wally Funk will join Jeff Bezos and his brother aboard the New Shephard (Jeff Bezos/Instagram)Jeff Bezos/Instagram

Funk was one of a group of women known as the ‘Mercury 13‘ who underwent privately funded astronaut training in the 1960s, but were never given their wings. At the time, NASA policy meant that only men were allowed to fly as test pilots or astronauts.

In a video posted by Bezos on Instagram, Funk said:

Nothing has ever gotten in my way. They said, ‘Well, you’re a girl, you can’t do that.’ I said, ’Guess what, doesn’t matter what you are.

You can still do it if you want to do it and I like to do things that nobody has ever done.

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In a caption accompanying the video, Bezos wrote that ‘no one has waited longer,’ to go to space, adding ‘It’s time. Welcome to the crew, Wally. We’re excited to have you fly with us on July 20th as our honored guest.’

Born in New Mexico, Funk is a pioneering aviator, having been both the first female US military flight instructor and the first female air safety investigator for the National Transport Safety Board.

Funk (second left) with other members of the Mercury 13 in 1995 (PA Images)PA Images

Along with 12 other women, she passed the physical examinations used in NASA’s astronaut selection process, yet despite her qualifications and participation in the project, as well as being denied her wings by NASA, she was rejected from three commercial airlines due to her gender.

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‘They told me that I had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys,’ Funk said of her time on the Mercury 13 program, per AP. ‘So I got hold of NASA four times. I said I want to become an astronaut, but nobody would take me. I didn’t think that I would ever get to go up.’

As well as joining Bezos and his brother in zero gravity later this month, The Verge reports that Funk has also booked her space on the maiden flight of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spacecraft, the SpaceShipTwo, which was recently cleared by the FAA to fly paying customers to suborbital space.

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Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a London-based journalist at UNILAD. After studying History at UCL she worked for print publications on both sides of the pond, including spells at Harper's Magazine and The Times, before graduating with an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City, University of London.

Topics: Technology, Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, Space

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AP