Blue Origin has been raising a significant amount of hype ever since the company announced that founder Jeff Bezos will be going to space this month. It marks a significant milestone for the company, which was looking to be the first private aerospace firm to take a crewed flight into space.
The manner of detail rollout following Bezos’s announcement was classic Blue Origin. Bezos first announced that he would be taking the trip, adding that he would go to space accompanied by his brother, Mark, and other crew members.
Later, news sources confirmed that a seat on the flight had been auctioned for $28 million. According to accounts, anticipation had built so much for the flight that seats jumped from $2.8 million to almost the $28 million price in only a few minutes. The strategy has worked.
Now, Blue Origin has peeled off yet another layer as it announced the identity of one person who will be joining Bezos and his brother on the flight. Earlier this month, Bezos announced that Wally Funk, an 82-year-old aviator and aspiring astronaut, will join him for his flight.
In a video shared on his Instagram page, Bezos captured Funk’s excitement as she heard the news. “I can’t tell people that are watching how fabulous I feel to have been picked by Blue Origin to go on this trip,” Funk is seen saying in the video. “I’ll love every second of it…”
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Making a Little Girl’s Dream Come True
Funk’s impatience to get to space is understandable as she has always wanted to go to space all her life. The 82-year-old volunteered back in 1961 for the “Women in Space” program - a private project funded by William Randolph Lovelace II; a physician who was instrumental in NASA’s official Mercury program.
Funk was the youngest woman to pass through the program, scaling through the mental and physical test at just 21. She even bested John Glenn - one of the most famous astronauts ever - in one of the tests as she spent an impressive 10.5 hours in a sensory deprivation tank. In a staggering act, Funk spent 10 hours and 35 minutes floating inside a tank of water in a completely dark and soundproofed room.
Funk couldn’t see, hear, or feel anything. Eventually, she came out - not because she was tired, but because the doctor administering the test already saw enough to be impressed.
Sadly, even though 13 women (including Funk) passed the NASA tests, the “Women in Space” program was scrapped as the space agency didn’t want to accept female astronauts at the time. The women - now known as the Mercury 13 - were forced to suspend their dreams, although they served to inspire a new generation of female astronauts who came after them.
After NASA began accepting women into its program, Funk applied three times. Still, the agency denied her on all counts as she didn’t have any background in engineering - even though she had the experience and pedigree of any astronaut on the planet.
A Record-Breaking Endeavor
Of course, Funk won’t be the first woman to go into space. That honor belongs to Sally Ride, who went into space in 1983. At the time, Funk had continued her career at piloting. She pursued - and got - every available aviation license available, and she eventually became the first woman to be a safety inspector at the Federal Aviation Administration.
Now that space is calling, Funk is set to be the oldest person to go into space. At 82 years, she will beat the record of the man who got to go into space before her - John Glenn.
Glenn had gone into space for the first time in 1962, becoming the first American to ever orbit the Earth. In October 1988, he became the oldest person to go into space - doing so at the age of 77 when he launched on NASA’s Discovery space shuttle via the STS-95 mission. All things considered, Funk will smash that record in style this month.
Of course, the flight will also be a record for Blue Origin as it will be the company’s first crewed spaceflight. For what it’s worth, Bezos will also be the richest human to go into space when New Shepard leaves Blue Origin’s West Texas facility on July 20. So, it seems like records are being broken across the board.
The Blue Origin flight is set to be pretty short, clocking in at just 11 minutes in total. Still, for someone who has always wished to go into space, this will be an incredible feat for Funk. For now, Blue Origin is yet to list the name of the person who paid $28 million for the last seat. Fingers crossed on who the person could be.