Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov holds the record for the youngest person to fly in space. He was only 25-years-old when he blasted into orbit four months after Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space in 1961.
And now, 82-years-old Wally Funk made history as she became the oldest person to ever fly into space. Along with billionaire Jeff Bezos on his Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, the trip was a dream come true for Funk. She had been pining to go into space for over fifty years.
Just before the launch, Funk was interviewed by Fox4News. She said, “Now I’m gonna go up with the best team ever and we’re gonna show the world what can be done in space. Woohoo! I can hardly wait.”
Wally Funk was born in Texas in 1939. She graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1960 with a degree in secondary education. And not long after that, she became the first female flight instructor at a U.S. military base. In 1961, Funk volunteered to join the “Women in Space” program. This was a group of female aviators who had undergone testing and training in the hopes that they become astronauts one day for the first American human spaceflight program.
As the First Lady Astronaut Trainees, or FLATs, the group is known to many by the name “Mercury 13.”
Funk was the youngest woman in the program. The training was both grueling and rigorous. All of the women were denied the chance to go into space. Soon, the program was shut down. On the other hand, all of their male peers in the group known as “Mercury Seven” made it into space.
This did not stop Funk from dreaming. She applied to NASA in the 1970s when female astronauts first started being trained by the agency. She was denied four times but she kept trying. Then she became the first female Federal Aviation Administration inspector. She also became the first female air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.
And now, Funk’s space dream finally came true. She finally got to travel into space!
And to make this experience extra special, she becomes the oldest person to ever fly to space. Her friend, Laurie Williams, described her as the poster child for “it’s never too late to live your dream.” She said, “As a member of our congregation, she brings an energy level that’s like none other. I asked her how excited she was, and she said, ‘Honey, I’m going to be excited once I get off of the ship. It hasn’t happened yet. I’ve waited all these years, and I just can’t wait.’”
Williams added, “The neat thing about that is that Wally loves younger generations. And she loves to sow into that enthusiasm for aviation. That couldn’t have been a better pairing.”
Along with Funk on the flight was Bezos, his younger brother Mark, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen from the Netherlands.
Even though she wasn’t allowed to bring much on her journey to space, she made sure to bring a piece of home with her to the heavens. In their church, they have bracelets with writings: “God is Big Enough.” She is taking Williams’ bracelet with her to space because they believe that God did this for her.