Today in 1939, the birthday of a woman who could have been one of the first U.S. astronauts but ended up being one of the more recent ones: Wally Funk.
She was born Mary Wallace Funk in Taos, New Mexico, had her first flying lesson at age 9, got her flying license at age 16 and became a flight instructor in her early 20s.
That’s when Funk heard about something called the Woman In Space Program.
A doctor who had worked on Project Mercury had launched a non-governmental program to see whether women could pass the same training regimen NASA used for male astronauts.
They could, and even among the thirteen women in the program, Funk stood out.
Her time in the isolation tank: 10 hours, 35 minutes.
Even famed astronaut John Glenn hadn’t gone that long.
But none of the women known as the Mercury 13 joined NASA’s astronaut ranks.
Regardless of the women’s test results, NASA kept the astronaut corps men-only.
Funk kept her eyes on the sky.
She would go on to teach thousands of people to fly planes, and would become the FAA’s first female crash investigator.
And she didn’t forget about space, either.
She got to try weightlessness on a special airplane flight at age 61.
She bought a ticket on one of the flights Virgin Galactic planned for passengers.
She waited and waited, but stayed positive, telling an interviewer, “I will get up there somehow.”
In July 2021, she finally did, as a passenger on the first Blue Origin flight.
At age 82, some 60 years after beginning her astronaut training, Funk became the oldest person to reach space, and probably the most enthusiastic.
Her reaction to the 11 minute space flight: “I want to go again. Fast.”
Today in 2016, ScreenDaily reported on an unusual movie called “Paint Drying.”
It was a ten hour film that depicted actual paint drying on a wall.
The filmmaker essentially made it to protest the British Board Of Film Classification; asking them for a rating meant they’d have to watch all of the ten hour movie.
For what it’s worth, the board said “Paint Drying” was appropriate for all ages.
Who Is Wally Funk? Photo Reveals “Mercury 13” Aviator Is Third Blue Origin Passenger (Inverse)
‘Paint Drying’ director in talks to screen protest film (ScreenDaily)
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Photo by Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum via Flickr/Creative Commons