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Wally Funk ...A Favorite Hero in Space

In 1961, she lost her chance to go to space. At 82, she finally got her shot.

Meeting Richard Branson, his mom and stepdad still remains one of the greatest thrills of my life! If it wasn't for Virgin Atlantic and their original launch in Chicago, plus my amazing friendship with Mayor Daley and the orchestration of it all by my dear friend, Bonnie Skop, this meeting may have never happened.

Of course, I was more that thrilled when Jeff Bezos invited a personal hero of mine, Wally Funk, to join his crew in his space craft. Her story amazes and delights! It proves, you are NEVER too old to live out your dreams.

By Marisa Iati July 20, 2021 at 12:58 p.m. EDT

Floating in the isolation tank, Wally Funk felt weightless. She couldn’t see or hear. There was nothing to taste or smell. When she patted the eight feet of water surrounding her, she didn’t feel it. By the time Funk endured those circumstances for 10 hours and 35 minutes in 1961, she had already taken at least 87 other exams, ranging from swallowing three feet of rubber hose to guzzling a pint of radioactive water. It was all in service of becoming one of the first female astronauts at a time when American women still needed their husbands’ permission to sign a mortgage and get a credit card.

Within months, Funk’s dream was squelched. NASA had no program for female astronauts, she learned in a perfunctory telegram. Without that federal support, her privately funded testing program would end.


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