Wally Funk, 82, is the oldest person to travel into space. Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk joined the crew of Blue Origin, the space tourism company owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, on their first commercial flight. The spacecraft successfully accomplished its mission and landed this Tuesday (20) in the city of Van Horn, Texas. Alongside Bezos, the richest man on the planet and founder of Amazon, his brother, Mark Bezos, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, Funk fulfilled his long-time dream of traveling outside Planet Earth. Funk is an example of determination and his trajectory brings several lessons about persistence.
Funk was born in Las Vegas and grew up in New Mexico. She has been fascinated by airplanes since she was a child. At age nine, he took his first flying lesson and earned his pilot’s license as a teenager. At 16, Wally dropped out of school after becoming frustrated that girls couldn’t study mechanics. At 20, she graduated as a professional aviator. Funk was part of a group of 19 women who applied to a privately funded program and 13 of them graduated, earning the nickname Mercury 13.
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See 5 lessons from the history of Wally Funk:
- Do not give up on your dreams: the veteran US pilot waited six decades for her chance to go into space;
- Be patient: Wally earned her pilot’s license as a teenager and went through rigorous training as part of a NASA scheme in 1961, but had never traveled to space as a woman despite outperforming her male counterparts;
- Be better at what you do: Funk was the youngest woman to graduate at the time and her resume has been pioneering ever since. She went on to serve as the first female air safety investigator for the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) and is the first female inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States;
- Teach what you know: At 20, she graduated as a professional aviator and at 21, she volunteered for NASA’s Women in Space program and was accepted despite being below the recruiting age range of 25-40;
- Get the best of you: Funk was the youngest to graduate and set a record for a sensory deprivation tank test. She was supposed to float in a soundproof, lightless water tank. The pilot managed to stay on site for 10 hours and 35 minutes without hallucinating and was removed not because she was finished but because the doctor administering the test decided it might be time to take her out.
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