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Passenger added to Jeff Bezos’ planned spaceflight would be the oldest person in space

July 2, 2021, 12:30 AM UTC

Pioneering pilot Wally Funk, who was denied being an astronaut because of her gender, is joining Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on an upcoming space voyage by his rocket startup, Blue Origin.

The nation’s first female Federal Aviation Administration inspector, whose formal name is Mary Wallace Funk, will be an “honored guest” for the July 20 launch of the New Shepard rocket, Blue Origin said Thursday. At 82, Funk would be the oldest person to ever reach space, the company said, shattering the current record held by John Glenn, the astronaut-turned-senator who went into orbit at 77.

Other New Shepard crew members include Bezos’s brother Mark Bezos and a yet-to-be revealed auction winner who is paying $28 million to be an astronaut.

In a video onInstagram, Bezos asked Funk what she will say when they eventually return to Earth after spending four minutes in zero gravity.       

“I will say, ‘Honey, that’s the best thing that ever happened to me!” Funk said before hugging the tech tycoon. 

Funk, an airline pilot and instructor, was a member of the “Mercury 13,” a team of 13 American women who went through formal astronaut training in the early 1960s. Despite the intense preparation, the women were barred from becoming astronauts because of a then-NASA requirement to only accept military fighter pilots, a position held exclusively by men.

The upcoming launch of New Shepard comes at a time of intense competition by companies like Blue Origin, along with Virgin Galactic, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, to blast humans into space. 

Virgin Galactic, for instance, said on Thursday that its founder, Richard Branson, will join a July 11 spaceflight in an attempt to beat Bezos to launch.

Branson recently told Fortune that he’s “waited since the moon landing to go to space, and I’m itching to go.”

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