- Wally Funk is an 82-year-old aviator and was a passenger on Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight.
- In 2010, she put a $200,000 deposit on a future Virgin Galactic flight.
- “At this point, yes, Wally is planning to fly with Virgin Galactic too,” Funk’s agent told Insider.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Wally Funk has finally achieved her lifelong dream of heading to space – but it seems the trip with Blue Origin won’t be her last.
Funk is an 82-year-old aviator who was invited by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to be an “honored guest” on his spaceflight on Tuesday. But over a decade ago, Funk paid $200,000 for a future ride on Virgin Galactic’s suborbital plane, according to The Guardian – and it seems she has no intention of giving up her seat.
“At this point, yes, Wally is planning to fly with Virgin Galactic too,” Funk’s agent, Loretta Hall, told Insider in an email last week.
Virgin Galactic told Insider that the company didn’t comment on “the identities of Future Astronauts.” Blue Origin did not respond to a request for comment on Funk’s plans.
‘No one has waited longer’
Earlier this month, Bezos announced Funk would join him, his younger brother Mark, and a third passenger on their 11-minute trip to space. (The other passenger was later revealed to be 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who replaced the winning bidder in an auction for the seat after that passenger had “scheduling conflicts.”)
“No one has waited longer,” Bezos wrote in an Instagram post. “It’s time. Welcome to the crew, Wally.”
In 1961, Funk joined an all-woman space mission dubbed “Mercury 13.” She embarked on an extensive series of tests and trainings, which she aced – she told Texas Monthly that the researchers told her she had performed better than any other astronaut in the program, man or woman.
But the program was ultimately scrapped, and Funk never made it to space. In 1962, two of the women from the program testified before the House Committee on Science and Astronautics that they were being denied the opportunity simply because they were women.
Funk later embarked on a long career in flight, becoming the first female safety inspector at the Federal Aviation Administration and working with the National Transportation Safety Board, according to Texas Monthly.
In a video posted on Bezos’ Instagram account, Funk said she had taught over 3,000 people to fly.
Blue Origin vs. Virgin Galactic
Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft lifted off shortly after 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
The flight took Bezos and company 62 miles above Earth to the edge of space. Inside the spacecraft, Bezos and his fellow passengers had roughly three minutes to float around and view Earth from afar or gaze into the depths of outer space.
While Blue Origin’s mission was a major milestone – it’s the first time the company has sent human passengers into space – it was slightly eclipsed by Virgin Galactic and its billionaire founder, Richard Branson.
Branson’s flight – which beat Bezos’ by nine days, a fact Branson called “an incredible, wonderful coincidence” – seemed to rankle Blue Origin, which said the flight wouldn’t go high enough to truly count.
Still, Virgin plans to start offering suborbital flights to space tourists next year, and has already sold 600 tickets to hopeful space tourists, including SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk – and, of course, Funk.