Wally Funk became the oldest person to reach space on Tuesday – some 60 years after first undergoing astronaut training.

Wally has a long career as an aviator and has finally succeeded in realizing her dream of reaching outer space. She has spent six decades of her life exploring the sky. Wally had undergone astronaut training in the 1960s but did not qualify because of her status as a woman.

Wally Funk was passionate about aviation since childhood and took her first flying lesson at the age of 9. When she was 16, she joined the Flying Susie’s program at Stephens College Aviation. In 1958, she graduated with a pilot’s license.

In 1959 at the age of 20 she became a professional pilot. She was the first female flight instructor at a US military base. In 1964, Stephen’s College awarded her with the Alumna Achievement Award. She thus became the youngest woman in history to win the title. 

In 1971, Funk received her flight inspector degree from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and became the first woman to complete the FAA Air Operations Inspector General Academy course. In 1974, Funk was hired by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as her first female aviation safety officer.

Ms. Funk was one of the so-called Mercury 13 group of women trained to become NASA astronauts in the 1960s but was passed over because of her gender.

Funk dedicated the rest of her life to aviation. In a Blue Origin video, she said she has taught over 3,000 people to fly. But she never made it to space until Tuesday.

On Tuesday, at the age of 82, she was one of Jeff Bezos’ three co-passengers aboard his company Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle to take a historic suborbital flight.

“I’ve been waiting a long time,” Ms. Funk said afterward. “I want to go again – fast.”

Her flight has earned Ms. Funk a new generation of admirers on social media, and beyond.

“Wally Funk is now on my list of people that I would most like to meet in the country. She is America’s new sweetheart,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.

Upon returning to Earth, Bezos announced a new $100 million award to recognize leaders who show “courage and civility.” CNET Posted video of the experiences of  Wally Funk and Jeff Bezos in space.

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