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Mary Wallace Funk, March 9, 2012

The 20th of July is an important day to those of us who consider ourselves Space Fans, Freaks, and Geeks. July 20, 1969, Apollo11 landed on the moon. July 20, 1976, Viking I touched down on Mars. And today, on July 20, 2021, Jeff Bozos went to the edges of space with an all-civilian crew in a privately owned craft – with a very important crewmember: Ms. Wally Funk.

New Shepherd carried four passengers: Jeff Bezos himself, his brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen, and Wally Funk.

Oliver Daemen, at 18, is the youngest person to travel to space, beating Russian cosmonaut Gherman Titov, who was 25 in 1961. Wally Funk at 82, became the oldest person to go to space, beating Senator John Glenn’s record at 77.

Mary Wallace Funk is a pilot and piloting instructor. She is an expert on flight safety. She was one of the Mercury Thirteen, a group of thirteen female pilots who underwent the same physiological tests as male astronaut candidates to determine whether or not it would be possible for women to go into space. In the Sixties, Wally Funk was the youngest of the Mercury 13. In the 21st century, she is the oldest person to go into space. She is the first and thus far, only member of the Mercury 13 to go into space. In the Sixties, NASA only wanted military test pilots as engineers, at at that time, women were not allowed to be pilots in the USAF, the Army, or the Navy. Therefore, the Soviet Union sent Valentina Tereshkova into space, and no female from the United States made the cut.

Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post and Amazon.com, launched into space on Tuesday, July 20, 2021 aboard a rocket and capsule that was developed by his space flight company, Blue Origin. The vessel was called New Shepherd, after astronaut Alan Shepherd, a personal hero and inspiration of Mr. Bezos.

Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin, a human spaceflight startup in 2000. The New Shepherd was Blue Origin’s first manned flight. Bezos announced that he considered space exploration a necessary tool in ensuring humanity’s survival. “We will have to leave this planet, and we’re going to leave it, and it’s going to make this planet better.”


A technical note: while Bezos and Funk’s accomplishments should not be diminished, the edge of space is formally accepted as being 62 miles above the Earth’s surface. The New Shephard capsule only achieved an altitude of 47 miles, meaning that if the goal was to go to space, the trip fell 25 miles short.

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Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.

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