Blue Origin chief Jeff Bezos has chosen an 82-year-old pilot who was denied astronaut wings because of her gender to rocket into space with him in just three weeks.
The company announced on Thursday that Wally Funk will be on board the July 20 launch from west Texas, flying in the capsule for the 10-minute hop as an “honoured guest”.
She will join Amazon boss Mr Bezos, his brother and the winner of a charity auction, as the first people to ride a New Shepard rocket.
Ms 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 Mr Bezos, Ms 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’.”
Ms Funk will become the oldest person to launch into space, beating the late John Glenn, who set a record at the age of 77 when flying on board space shuttle Discovery in 1998.
“No one has waited longer,” Mr Bezos said via Instagram. “It’s time. Welcome to the crew, Wally. We’re excited to have you fly with us on July 20 as our honoured guest.”
Ms Funk was the first female inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration and the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.
She said she has 19,600 flying hours and has taught more than 3,000 people to fly.