Thursday, August 5

The 82-year-old passenger on Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight still plans to take the Virgin Galactic trip she paid $200,000 for over a decade ago

  • Wally Funk is an 82-year-old aviator and the fourth passenger on Jeff Bezos’ upcoming 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.

When Wally Funk blasts off aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket next week, it’ll be her first time heading to space — but it seems it won’t be her last.

Funk is an 82-year-old aviator who was invited by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to be the fourth passenger on his spaceflight on July 20. 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.

Virgin Galactic told Insider that the company doesn’t comment on “the identities of Future Astronauts.” Blue Origin did not respond to a request for comment on Funk’s plans.

Read more: The space race between Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson isn’t about saving Earth — it’s a PR stunt by billionaires trying to pretend they care about the rest of us

‘No one has waited longer’

Earlier this month, Bezos announced that Funk would join him, his younger brother Mark, and a third passenger on their 11-minute trip to space. (The other passenger, whose name hasn’t been revealed, placed the winning $28 million bid in an auction for the seat last month.)

“No one has waited longer,” Bezos wrote in an Instagram post. “It’s time. Welcome to the crew, Wally.”

A post shared by Jeff Bezos (@jeffbezos)

Back 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 tested 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 and Safety Board, according to Texas Monthly.

In the video posted to Bezos’ Instagram account, Funk said she has now taught over 3,000 people to fly.

Blue Origin vs. Virgin Galactic

Richard Branson in space aboard a Virgin Galactic rocket plane.

Richard Branson floats in space aboard a Virgin Galactic rocket plane.

Virgin Galactic

Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft — which was cleared for takeoff by the FAA on Monday — is scheduled for liftoff at 9 am ET on July 20.

The flight will take Bezos 62 miles above Earth, to the edge of space. Inside the spacecraft, Bezos and his fellow passengers will have three minutes to float around and view Earth from afar or gaze into the depths of outer space.

While Blue Origin’s mission will be a major milestone — it’s the first time the company has sent human passengers into space — it has since been slightly eclipsed by Virgin Galactic and its billionaire founder, Richard Branson.

On Sunday, Branson and three crewmates flew 55 miles above Earth aboard Virgin’s space plane, floated in zero gravity for about five minutes, then returned safely to Earth.

Branson’s flight — which beat Bezos’ by nine days, a fact Branson called “an incredible, wonderful coincidence” — Seemed to rankle Blue Origin, which claimed 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.

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