Wally Funk, the 82-year-old aviator who traveled into space and reversed decades of discrimination at NASA

The aviatrix Wally funk Not only did he become the oldest person to arrive in space this Tuesday, but also, at 82 years old, got a rematch for her Mercury 13 teammates, the project to turn thirteen women into astronauts that was finally scrapped by NASA in 1961.

On July 1, magnate Jeff Bezos announced that Wally would be in charge of piloting his most ambitious project: the first manned space flight of his company Blue Origin that this Tuesday he managed to cross the Karman line that marks the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

It was just under 11 minutes, but enough for Wally to get on a spaceship.

“In 1961, Wally Funk was at the top of his class as part of the Mercury 13,” Bezos wrote on his Instagram account when announcing that the woman would be part of the crew of the New Shepard ship. “Despite having completed its preparation, the program was canceled and none of the 13 flew“continued the tycoon.

Despite having completed her preparation for space travel, the Mercury 13 program was canceled. Photo: AFP

Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk was born on February 1, 1939, in Las Vegas. In 1961, she decided to join the project carried out by the American doctor William Lovelace, the Mercury 13, with which he planned to turn a group of thirteen women into the first to reach space.

Like the rest of her companions, Wally’s grades were excellent as were the physical tests. However, NASA decided to cancel the program for one reason only: they were women.

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Jerrie Cobb and Janey Hart, two of them, They went to the United States Congress to raise discrimination. Among the objections they heard, one of the congressmen told him that as an astronaut he would not be able to raise his children properly.

The four crew members of the New Shepard ship.  Photo: Reuters

The four crew members of the New Shepard ship. Photo: Reuters

Another speaker in Congress was John Glenn, a renowned pilot and the first American to orbit the Earth. “The fact that women are not in this field is a reality of our social order”Glenn said then.

In 1998, at age 77, Glenn became the oldest person to reach outer space by hopping on one of the flights of the space shuttle Discovery.

But it was Wally Funk who took the title from him. With an agility that did not differentiate her from her four companions on the New Shepard, the woman climbed the endless stairs that led to the door of the ship, clad in her blue suit and a smile she couldn’t seem to contain.

In space, with zero gravity.  Photo: EFE

In space, with zero gravity. Photo: EFE

In all these years, Wally never gave up hope of being able to man a spaceship. And although in 1983 Sally Ride became the first astronaut to open doors for other women, Wally could never make his dream come true.

“I said I wanted to be an astronaut. But no one wanted to take me. I didn’t think I’d ever go there,” Wally said in a video posted by Bezos on his social media. “No one has waited that long”The businessman replied, “Welcome to the crew, Wally.”

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With information from Télam.


Myrtle Frost

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