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Women in Space

Women participate in Space Exploration, Too!

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Mary Wallace Funk aka Wally flies to Space at Last!

On July 1, 2021, Blue Origin announced that Wally Funk would fly on the first crewed flight of their New Shepard, rocket. In the past, Wally had been working with Richard Branson at Virgin Galactic and even paid for a seat in the early 2000s, but she never flew with them. In 2021, Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin offered her a seat on the first human crewed flight of the New Shepard suborbital rocket.

Wally Funk has long dreamed of flying on a rocket. She has many hours of flight experience - - 19,600 hours of flying time listed on the Ninety-nines website (last updated in 2017.) She was the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, OK, hired at the age of 20 to train personell to fly for the U.S. Army. She trained pilots for 40 years! She was the first woman air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), as well as the first woman to work as a Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) inspector.

Wally Funk in 1995
Wally Funk in 1995

Back in the 1960's when the United States was planning to send humans to the Moon, Dr. William R. Lovelace tested some women to discover the ability for the female human body to launch on a rocket and travel to the Moon. Amazingly, they came through with flying colors and in some areas outscored the men who were actually astronaunts that went to space. But the American political system rallied and the thought of sending women to space became an unobtainable dream. Later the press dubbed the group the " Mercury 13" more on that below.

Wally was a very talented young girl who had her first flying lesson at the age of 9. When she was 14, she won the Distinguished Rifleman's Award for sharp shooting and represented the southwestern United States as a female skier in Slalom and Downhill races competition. Wally's hero was Amelia Earheart whose exploits encouraged her to learn to fly at age 16. At 16, Wally entered Stephens College in Columbia, MO, where she became a member of the "Flying Susies". She graduated in 1958 with her pilot's license and an Associate of Arts degree. Wallly graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1960 with a B.A. in Secondary Education degree. She applied to become a commercial pilot at major airlines but was rejected because "there was no ladies' bathroom" at their training facilities. She has participated in and won races at airshows.

Wally was 21 when she entered the "Women in Space" Program at an independent clinic (not officially sponsored by NASA) in February 1961. In all, 25 women were selected to enter the program. Wally took the rigorous physical and mental tests and passed with a very high average. Thirteen women were selected. During this program, Wally began her lifelong dream to be an astronaut and ride a rocket into space.

Wally also appeared around the world on goodwill flying tours for 3 years, promoting aviation and women pilots. These tours covered 50 countries. This is only a brief review of the long career and flying experience of Wally Funk, find out more following the links below.

In 2020, Wally published her memoir, Higher, Faster, Longer that can be purchased on Amazon in soft cover or Kindle formats.

Links for Wally Funk

Read more about Blue Origion on Astra's Commercial Space Development page

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First Ladies

These ladies were the first from individuals from their country to venture into space and their flight date.

Valentina Tereshkova Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - June 16, 1963

Sally Ride United States of America - June 18, 1983

Helen Sharmin Great Britain - May 1991

Yi So-yeon Korea - April 8, 2008

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Who are the Mercury 13?

They were young, healthy strong women who wanted to join the first astronauts the US and NASA were sending into space to explore a new frontier. They worked hard to pass the tests, but in the end the political system let them down and the "good ol' boys" stole the day again. Over time the 13 American women who qualified for the "Woman in Space Program" came to be known as the Mercury 13.

The requirements for the study were women under 35 years of age, in good health, hold a second-class medical, and a four-year college education, They must be pilots with a commercial rating or better and have over 2,000 hours of flying time.

It was not until 1994 that the women who participated in the program met each other. In 1995, seven members of the Mercury 13 were invited to the Space Shuttle STS-63 launch by pilot Eileen Collins who was the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle. During this mission, Eileen docked the shuttle to the Russian Mir space station.

List and Wikipedia articles on the Mercury 13 ladies

Astronaut Trainees in 1995
Woman Astronaut Trainees in 1995 at the launch of STS-63. Pictured from the left: Gene Nora Jessen; Wally Funk; Jerrie Cobb; Jerri Truhill; Sarah Ratley; Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman.

Please feel free to point others to this URL. Images on this page are in the public domain in the U.S.A. The text on this page is copyrighted, ©2021, by the author, Dawn Jenkins, and is NOT released into the public domain. It should not be copied to another site without permission or otherwise published without contacting and crediting the author. Please read the copyright statement linked below. For more information and other permissions use Astra's Contact Page.

This page is only the beginning of Astra's aerospace women's adventure, so come back again for more!

This page was last updated: 02/07/2023

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