Washington (AFP), Jul 1 – Trailblazing woman aviator Wally Funk, 82, will join Jeff Bezos this month on the first crewed spaceflight for the billionaire’s company Blue Origin, the firm announced Thursday.
The trip is 60 years overdue for Funk, who was one of the Mercury 13 — the first women trained to fly to space from 1960-1961, but excluded because of their gender.
On July 20 she will become the oldest person ever to go to space when she takes part in the journey aboard the New Shepard launch vehicle along with Bezos, his brother Mark and one other traveler.
The Bezos brothers and Funk, who was also the National Transportation Safety Board’s first female inspector and a Goodwill ambassador, will be joined by the unnamed winner of an auction who paid $28 million for another seat on the aircraft.
Taking off from a desert in western Texas, the New Shepard trip will last 10 minutes, four of which passengers will spend above the Karman line that marks the recognized boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.
Blue Origin’s maiden crewed flight comes in a context of fierce competition in the field of private space exploration — with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic, founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, all jostling for pole position.