Wally Funk and Dutch Teenager to Fly with Billionaire Jeff Bezos on Blue Origin’s 1st New Shepard Human Flight to Space

Wally Funk and Dutch Teenager to Fly with Billionaire Jeff Bezos on Blue Origin’s 1st New Shepard Human Flight to Space
Blue Origin’s first human crewed New Shepard rocket and capsule suborbital flight led by Billionaire Jeff Bezos and carrying three additional crew members remains on target for launch on July 20, 2021 from the company’s Launch Site One test site near Van Horn in west Texas. Credit: Blue Origin

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – 82-year-old Aviation pioneer Wally Funk, is all set, ready and willing to fly to space at last after she was chosen by Billionaire Jeff Bezos to fly with him as an honored guest and crew member aboard Blue Origin’s first New Shepard human flight to space on his company’s history making New Shepard suborbital commercial launch vehicle on Tuesday, July 20 – from the firms launch site in remote west Texas.

Wally Funk as one of the ‘Mercury 13’ – the first group of female American pilots to complete NASA’s Women in Space program. But it was cancelled and none of the women ever had a chance

Now is her opportunity at long last.

This undated photograph shows Wally Funk standing with a U.S. Air Force jet

Also aboard will be Bezos brother Mark and rounding out the four person crew is 18-year-old Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen, who is flying in place of the auction winner who won with a bid of $28 million – but can’t fly on this 1st New Shepard commercial mission due to a ‘scheduling conflict.’

57 year old Billionaire Jeff Bezos, is the world’s richest person and founder of Amazon and Blue Origin.

He has financed Blue Origin with billions in his own funds.

The test flight makes history as only the second rocket to be financed and flown by a billionaire with his own money and the first to carry humans on the first crew mission with a paying passenger for commercial space tourism.

Bezos initially invited his brother and best friend Mark to journey along for the ‘adventure of a lifetime.’

The historic but short trip to the edge of space and back will be unpiloted and fully automated and takes place after just two days of training for the four person  international crew

Oliver and his father participated in the auction and had been scheduled to fly on the second flight – but got bumped up to the first flight when the auction winner surprisingly, unexpectedly and rather strangely bowed out.

Oliver will join Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, and Wally Funk aboard the first human New Shepard flight on July 20.

At 18-years-old and 82-years-young, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk represent the youngest and oldest people to travel to space.

New Shepard’s first human flight is set to launch on July 20th  from Blue Origin’s rocket test site facility in West Texas – coinciding with the 52nd anniversary of the 1st human moon landing on Apollo 11 in 1969.

Oliver Daemen will be the first paying customer to fly on board New Shepard, marking the beginning of commercial operations for the program,” announced Blue Origin.

Oliver Daemen will be the first paying customer to fly on board New Shepard

The Billionaires space race is truly heating up and this flight comes just 9 days after Richard Branson’s’ suborbital flight to space aboard his Virgin Galactic spaceplane one week ago on Sunday morning, July 11 – beating Bezos to space

Both billionaires Branson and Bezos founded and financed rocket systems using billions of his own dollars, on a suborbital flight – thereby aiming to starting a new chapter in the commercial human spaceflight era of space tourism.

The New Shepard capsule will reach into the edge of space at an altitude just above 62 miles (100 km) which is international recognized as the boundary to outer space at the Karmen line with no discernable atmosphere.

The four person crew gathered together yesterday for a rocket facility tour and dinner with Bezos.

Billionaire Jeff Bezos (3rd from left) poses with his 3 crew members on the NS16 flight – Oliver Daemen, Wally Funk and Mark Bezos aboard the first human crewed New Shepard flight targeted for July 20, 2021. Credit: Blue Origin

All systems are currently GO for what counts as the 16th New Shepard flight and the first to launch with humans on a brief suborbital flight to the edge of space and back.

New Shepard remains go for launch on Tuesday, July 20, from Launch Site One in West Texas.

Liftoff is currently targeted for 9:00 am EDT / 8:00 am CDT / 13:00 UTC.

Blue Origin’s live broadcast starts at 7:30 am EDT/ 6:30 am CDT / 11:30 UTC.

“Our first human flight on Tuesday will be the 16th flight in #NewShepard’s history. Learn about the meticulous & rigorous launch program that brought us to this first step. Watch the launch live on BlueOrigin.com, starting at 6:30 am CDT / 11:30 UTC,” Blue Origin tweeted.

The launch broadcast starts at T Minus 90 minutes and weather is good thus far.

Blue Origin graphic on their 1st crewed flight

Wally Funk’s very long journey to space began in the 1960s when she was the youngest graduate of the Woman in Space Program, a privately-funded project which tested female pilots for astronaut fitness.

That program later became known as the “Mercury 13” – “thirteen American women successfully underwent the same physiological and psychological screening tests as the astronauts selected by NASA for Project Mercury, but they never flew to space,” said Blue Origin in their announcement of her participation.

Wally was the youngest graduate of this program.  But she never flew in space with NASA because the program was ultimately cancelled.

She was the first female FAA inspector and first female NTSB air safety investigator.

“The 82-year-old pilot will now be part of the first crew on New Shepard, and the oldest person ever to fly to space,” said Blue Origin.

Here’s the moment Jeff Bezos asked Wally Funk to join our first human flight on July 20 as his honored guest:

“No one has waited longer,” Bezos posted with a video on Instagram.

“In 1961, Wally Funk was at the top of her class as part of the “Mercury 13” Woman in Space Program. Despite completing their training, the program was cancelled, and none of the thirteen flew,”

“It’s time. Welcome to the crew, Wally. We’re excited to have you fly with us on July 20th as our honored guest.”

Award winning BBC journalist Sue Nelson wrote a book about Wally Funk titled “Wally Funk’s Race for Space” published in 2018 detailing the amazing life of this amazing women who still has a few new chapters to write!

I’m proud to say I met Wally Funk and Sue Nelson in 2017 during her tour of Cape Canaveral when Wally interviewed me about NASA plans to send humans back to the Moon and eventually Mars. I’m mentioned on p. 89 of the book.

Ken Kremer and Wally Funk meeting at the Mercury 7 memorial at Space View Park in Titusville, Florida in 2017. Credit: Sue Nelson

Learn complete details about the flight from a press conference held today Sunday, July 18.

Blue Origin is founded and funded by billionaire Jeff Bezos to achieve suborbital human spaceflight at vastly lower prices.

New Shepard is a commercial venture that will soon offer suborbital tourist flights to the edge of space and back.

Ticket prices have not yet been announced.

Blue Origin is competing with Virgin Galactic founded by Richard Branson to fly humans on suborbital tourist flights to space and back.

Branson’ ticket prices are going for about $250,000.

Bezos said he’s “dreamed of traveling to space”  since he was five years old, as he announced the flight schedule for next month in an Instagram post Monday.

“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend. #GradatimFerociter,” Bezos said.

“You see the Earth from space that changes you, it changes your relationship with this planet with humanity. It’s one Earth.”

“I want to go on this flight because it’s the thing I’ve wanted to do all my life. It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me. I invited my brother to come on this first flight because we’re closest friends.”

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, announces he will fly aboard his company’s New Shepard launch vehicle and capsule on its first human flight to space and back set to launch on July 20, 2021 from Blue Origin’s test facility in West Texas. Credit: Blue Origin

The mission will be fully automated with no pilots on board and include the four passengers strapped into seats with huge windows to enjoy an expansive and breathtaking view of the Earth from space – high enough to see the Earth’s curvature and the blackness of space.

Altogether the flight will last about 11 minutes and include about 3 minutes of weightlessness.

The New Shepard suborbital rocket system comprises a reusable rocket launch vehicle and capsule that will descend for a parachute assisted soft touchdown near to the launch site

There are no nearby public viewing options

“Blue Origin’s Launch Site One is in a remote location in the West Texas desert and there are no on-site public viewing areas in the vicinity of the launch site. The Texas Department of Transportation will be closing a portion of State Highway 54 adjacent to the launch site and will not allow spectators on the closed portion of the road during the launch, Blue Origin announced.

I have done two TV interviews about the ‘Billionaires Space Race between Branson and Bezos’ for WESH 2 NBC News Orlando and TRT Turkish TV

Here’s the WESH 2 NBC Orlando News story featuring my comments about the Billionaires Space Race between Branson and Bezos broadcast on July 9/10, 2021

Here’s my TRT World TV interview:

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about commercial suborbital spaceflight by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, Artemis and NASA missions, SLS, Orion, SpaceX Cargo and Crew Dragons, SpaceX  Starlink, Commercial Crew and Starliner and Crew Dragon and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2, ISS, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, NRO spysats and national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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