In 1961, 21 year-old Wally Funk was already a professional aviation instructor when she joined the “Women in Space” program. “Women in Space” ran parallel to the NASA’s Mercury program with equal rigor in mental and physical training and testing. The focus of the program was to see if women could, indeed, fare as well as men.
They did. Thirteen of the nineteen enrolled graduated with Wally Funk at the top of her class. The training she endured had to pale in comparison to the disappointment she experienced when the program folded and the women were relegated to spectating the men of NASA in flight.
Funk set her sights on commercial piloting and was passed over, again and again, because of her gender. She continued to train other people to fly and ultimately worked with the FAA and NTSB. She estimates training over 3,000 pilots and has accumulated almost 20,000 hours of flight time.
Once NASA accepted female astronaut candidates in the 1979, the highly-qualified Funk was 40 years old and most likely rejected because of her age. Funk remained professionally engaged and never lost sight of her dream. Funk recently applied to Richard Branson’s pay-to-fly mission, but Bezos offered her a seat on his ship without charge.
Wally Funk has broken the record for the oldest human in space and, more importantly, realized her dream through hard work, perseverance and continued professional growth.
by Carrie Mapes