Billionaire Jeff Bezos selected a female aviation expert to join him on his company’s inaugural trip to space. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos cashed out just over $671 million of stock this week by liquidating over 1 million of his own shares in the company. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Bezos space flight selects female aviator as final participant on space trip

Mike Brest July 01, 02:10 PM July 01, 02:10 PM

Billionaire Jeff Bezos selected a female aviation expert to join him on his company’s inaugural trip to space.

Wally Funk, 82, the youngest graduate of the Women in Space Program in the 1960s, will rocket to space with the Amazon CEO, his brother, and an unknown auction winner who spent $28 million to be there, the company announced Thursday.

“Back in the ’60s, I was in the Mercury 13 program. They asked me, ‘Do you want to be an astronaut?’ and I said yes,” Funk said. “They told me I had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys. So, I got a hold of NASA four times. I said, ‘I want to be an astronaut,’ but nobody would take me. I didn’t think that I would ever get to go up.”

AUCTION WINNER SPENDS $28 MILLION TO JOIN BEZOS ON FIRST TRIP TO SPACE

“Nothing has ever gotten in my way. They said, ‘Wally, 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 nobody has ever done,'” she added.

Funk was the first female Federal Aviation Administration inspector and the first National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator.

In her time as a pilot, she logged 19,600 hours of flight time, according to her website, which is the equivalent of spending over two years in the sky. As a flight instructor, she trained 3,000 students who obtained their pilot license or an advanced rating.

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The group is set to depart on the New Shepard’s first passenger flight on July 20. They will go over 62 miles above Earth, the unofficial point at which space begins, during the 10-minute-long trip.

Once the crew capsule enters suborbital space, it will detach from the top of the rocket, and the passengers will experience weightlessness while gazing out at Earth. Then the booster will come back down to land vertically, and the capsule will return to Earth’s surface using parachutes, according to a visual diagram about the mission from Blue Origin.

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