Jeff Bezos picks Grapevine woman, an aerospace pioneer, to rocket into space with him

Blue Origin announced Wally Funk, from Grapevine, Texas, will soar atop Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, inside a capsule, as an “honored guest.”

In this 2019 photo made available by NASA, Mercury 13 astronaut trainee Wally Funk visits the Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio. (NASA via AP)

Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos has chosen an early female aerospace pioneer — an 82-year-old pilot denied astronaut wings decades ago because of her gender — to rocket into space with him in just three weeks.

The company announced Thursday that Wally Funk will be aboard the July 20 launch from West Texas, flying in the capsule for the 10-minute hop as an “honored guest.” She’ll join Bezos, his brother and the winner of a charity auction, as the first people to ride a New Shepard rocket, named for Mercury 7 astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space.

Funk is among the so-called Mercury 13 women who went through astronaut training in the 1960s, but never made it to space — or even NASA’s astronaut corps — because they were female. Back then, all of the NASA astronauts were military test pilots and male.

In an Instagram video posted by Bezos, Funk said she feels “fabulous” about being asked to launch.

“Nothing has ever gotten in my way,” she noted. “They said, ‘Well, you’re a girl, you can’t do that.’ I said, ’Guess what, doesn’t matter what you are. You can still do it if you want to do it and I like to do things that nobody has ever done.”

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