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Meet the 82-Year-Old Who Just Became the Oldest Person in Space

Wally Funk

Photo Credit: Tony Gutierrez/AP/Shutterstock

Wally Funk is 82 years old and she just became the oldest person ever to travel to space.

On Tuesday, Funk joined Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos alongside two others on the New Shepard rocket. Crafted by Blue Origin, Bezos' space travel company, the rocket carried the oldest (Funk), the youngest (Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands), and the richest humans (Bezos) to have ever flown in space.

Funk's journey to space was just one of her many achievements. She previously made history as the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board and the first female Federal Aviation Administration inspector. Of her trip with Bezos, she said at a news conference this week: “I’ve been waiting a long time to finally get up there, and I’ve done a lot of astronaut training through the world ― Russia, America ― and I could always beat the guys on what they were doing, because I was always stronger, and I’ve always done everything on my own." 

Born Mary Wallace Funk, the New York Times reports that her "path to space" began in 1956 when she crushed two of her vertebrae in a skiing accident. During her recovery, she took aviation classes and read the book Promised the Moon by Stephanie Nolen. That book apparently convinced Funk to pursue aviation. After obtaining her pilot's license at 17, Funk has since "logged over 19,600 flying hours and taught more than 3,000 people to fly." 

Funk would go on, alongside 12 other women, in 1961 to take part in the Woman in Space Program to take tests to determine if she'd be a good candidate for space.  She later applied to NASA for various missions and she applied four times to be an astronaut but was repeatedly turned down. She's reportedly spent "the past 60 years trying to find another way into space."

Well, it looks like you finally found a way, Wally.

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