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Home / Achieving Woman

What you need to know about Wally Funk, 82-year-old aviator

 Wally Funk is the oldest person to reach space at 82 years (Photo: Courtesy)

On Tuesday July 20 Amazon founder and the richest man Jeff Bezos launched himself to space in his new spacecraft, to help pioneer a new era of private commercial space tourism.

For approximately 11 minutes, Bezos soared into space together with three other crewmates who accompanied him to mark this historic suborbital flight. 

Amongst them were Mark Bezos, his brother; Oliver Daemen, a Dutch student, and Mary Wallace Funk, a trailblazer aviator who stood out the most from the three.

But what makes Mary Wallace so special?

Commonly known as Wally Funk, she has broken the record for the oldest person to reach space at 82 years. Beating her predecessor, John Glenn, who held the record for 23 years after he first travelled to space at the age of 77 years back in 1962.

During a press conference after they landed back, Wally Funk could not contain her excitement as she said: “Best moment of my life,” as she blew kisses into the crowd.

True to her words, this was the best moment of her life after she missed a chance of travelling into space in the 1960s mostly because of her gender.

Then, Wally had been part of a group called the Mercury 13, a group of women who had been trained to become NASA astronauts.

Now, Wally Funk is the only member of the group to has since travelled to space. "I've been waiting a long time; I want to go again - fast." Wally said after the launch.

Other than being part of the Mercury 13, Wally was also the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the first female Federal Aviation Agency inspector.

Wally Funk has since set a new space record and earned a legion of admirers on social media and beyond.

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