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"I love it. I love it!": Wally Funk makes history during Blue Origin's launch to space

Wally Funk fulfills lifelong dream with spaceflight
Wally Funk fulfills lifelong dream with Blue Origin spaceflight 01:41

At age 82, Wally Funk's energy is infectious and her perseverance is impressive. The aviation pioneer was once denied a chance to become an astronaut because of her gender. But on Tuesday, she achieved her dream of seeing what lies beyond the Earth.

"I have been waiting a long time to finally get it up there," she said at a press conference before the launch. On Tuesday, she was among a group of three others that blasted off from West Texas aboard the Blue Origin spacecraft for a 10-minute ride more than 65 miles into the sky.

For Funk, the countdown to this day lasted 60 years. She said Tuesday's trip to space was fantastic. "I love it. I love it!" she said as she floated in zero gravity.

Funk's "can do" attitude has been her north star. Once told that she would never walk again after a skiing accident, Funk went on to get her pilot license at age 17.

In the 1960s, she was the youngest member of the "Mercury 13," a group of 13 women who proved they had "the right stuff." Not only did they endure the same grueling exams that tested the mettle of men like John Glenn and Alan Shepherd, but in some cases, surpassed them.

Today, Funk beat Glenn's record — by five years — becoming the oldest space traveler at 82.

Billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos and pioneering female aviator Wally Funk emerge from their capsule
Billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos and pioneering female aviator Wally Funk emerge from the crew capsule after their flight aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket near Van Horn, Texas, on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Blue Origin/Handout via REUTERS

She's now a newly minted astronaut, saying it was the "best moment of my life" as she blew kisses to the crowd during a press conference after the launch.

Her souvenir from the mission: a tail from one of the parachutes that brought her safely back to Earth. For the next few days, she'll be walking on air.

"It was great!" she said. "Can't wait to do it again!"

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