Blue Origin First Human Flight Wally Funk

Wally Funk becomes the oldest person to go into space

Wally Funk has made history by becoming the oldest person to go into space, and has finally realised her dream of being an astronaut.

Thanks to Jeff Bezos, Funk was finally able to go into space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard first crewed flight to space. The journey was New Shepard’s 16th flight to space.

Funk and Bezos were also be joined by his brother Mark Bezos, and the auction winner on the flight, 18-year-old, Oliver Daemen.

The flight lasted around 11 minutes from launch to capsule landing. Astronauts experienced three to four minutes of zero-gravity and travelled above the Karman Line, which is considered to be the boundary of space.

About Wally Funk

Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk was born 1st February 1939, in Las Vegas.

Wally is an American aviator, commercial astronaut, and Goodwill Ambassador.

She was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the first female Federal Aviation Agency inspector.

Wally is also one of the Mercury 13. The Mercury 13 Women in Space Program was a privately-funded program to see how women would cope with space training.

The women were put through the same rigorous physical and mental testing as male astronauts. Wally passed her tests and was qualified to go into space. Her score was the third best in the Mercury 13 program.

However, despite completing their training, the program was cancelled, and none of the thirteen flew.

Wally never gave up her dream of going into space and  when NASA finally began accepting women in the late 1970s, Funk applied three times. Despite her impressive credentials, she was turned down for not having an engineering degree or a background as a test pilot.

In July 2020, Wally published a memoir, Higher Faster Longer —My Life in Aviation and My Quest for Space Flight .

Watch the launch below


About Blue Origin

Blue Origin was founded by Jeff Bezos with the vision of enabling a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth. To preserve Earth, Blue Origin believes that humanity will need to expand, explore, find new energy and material resources, and move industries that stress Earth into space. Blue Origin is working on this today by developing partially and fully reusable launch vehicles that are safe, low cost and serve the needs of all civil, commercial and defense customers. Blue’s efforts to fly astronauts to space on New Shepard, produce reusable liquid rocket engines, create a highly-reusable orbital launch vehicle with New Glenn and return Americans to the surface of the Moon—this time to stay—will add new chapters to the history of spaceflight and move us closer to fulfilling that founding vision.

Blue Origin Astronaut Crew Flight Suits

Diviya Devani featured

Inspirational Woman: Diviya Devani | Systems Engineer, Teledyne e2v

 

Diviya DevaniDiviya Devani is a systems engineer who works in the Quantum Technology department at Teledyne e2v.

She has previous experience as a Product Engineer on European Space Agency projects including the ESA Sentinel 5 project which monitors air quality, climate and solar radiation.

Diviya is currently overseeing a two year, world-first project, managing a six strong consortium from both industry and academia to deliver a small satellite system that will demonstrate a Quantum experiment in space.

She has been eager to work in the space sector from a young age and is passionate about encouraging more women to pursue careers in STEM industries. She feels that our education does not detail the wide range of careers STEM offers and would like to help raise awareness of the opportunities that there are out there for women.

Her role model is Sunita Williams the first person to complete a marathon in Space and she is currently the treasurer of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, Essex network and one of her key objectives is to increase engagement with young professionals and female engineers within the engineering field.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I completed my Masters in Physics in 2014 at the University of Nottingham, after which I joined the Space Imaging Engineering Graduate Scheme at Teledyne e2v in 2015. During the two year scheme I worked in different functions across the business including; bid management, development engineering, product engineering and a continuous improvement project. I worked as a Product Engineer on a European Space Agency (ESA) project – Teledyne e2v supply Imaging Sensors for the Fluorescence Explorer (FLEX) mission which will map vegetation fluorescence to quantify photosynthetic activity. Since completing the scheme I am a systems engineer developing a shoe box sized satellite with a quantum experiment on-board.

My current role requires me to maintain the integrity of the design, bringing together five different subsystems of the satellite which are being delivered by external industrial partners. I ensure that when the components of the satellite come together they interface correctly, mechanically and electrically.  I also have to keep on top of the original aims and requirements specification of the system, ensuring the end product is not completely different from the initial requirement. A key part of the role is ensuring the satellite meets the European Space Agency’s standards which include environmental testing, functional testing and adhering to the allowed materials standards. The satellite needs to survive launch conditions and be able to operate in a radiation environment for at least six months.

I like to keep busy outside work as work life balance is important to me. I have a grade eight in classical singing and enjoy keeping fit by running.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have always had a target goal which has been to be in the heart of a Space mission on a large programme. So the focus has always been on Space. I haven’t defined in detail what the path in between the beginning and the end is, but I’d say I’m right on track and in my dream job right now and on my way to the end goal.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Challenges always appear, but I see them as opportunities to become stronger and better at what I do. I have been in roles where I have been responsible for championing a change that isn’t supported by all parties. In this instance the challenge is understanding what motivates the person/people and showing them how the change could potentially benefit them.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

The Job application process, and job adverts in particular. I don’t believe job adverts/specifications are tailored to appeal to a wide audience. It has been shown that women will apply for a job once they meat 90 percent of the criteria and men will apply after fulfilling 60 percent. Simple changes such as reducing the number of non-negotiable requirements could lead to more female applicants. Changes in language could also have a big impact, as words such as ‘negotiation’ can put females off in particular, but also men. In addition I think there is a big lack of females in senior leadership roles. The middle management roles seem to have plenty of women, but the further up you go the less women you see. Reassessing job adverts and making them more friendly and appealing to both genders could make a big difference. Having realistic requirements that are flexible would attract more females and also mean the right candidate gets the job.

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in STEM?

I think it is important that there are opportunities for young women and girls to have first-hand experience of STEM careers, inspiring role models and once in the field continued support throughout their careers potentially via mentoring schemes. Having work experience opportunities in STEM companies is invaluable, but it is important that there are inspiring role models on hand to support and guide them. I recently organised a visit for a group of girls from a school, where they spoke to a range of STEM professionals on site, had a tour and also carried out hands-on activities such as wearing a cleanroom suit which looks like a space suit, but keeps our manufacturing areas clean from particles as once our sensors are in space there is no one there to clean them.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date has been getting a job as a systems engineer working on a small satellite, despite not having previous experience as a systems engineer. I have since then been able to present the project at a European Space Agency conference in Italy in front of nearly 300 people.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My next challenge is to take this project from the lab and get the satellite into space. As for the future, I still have a secret ambition to be an astronaut so I’ll be working on this.


women-in-space-featured

Where are all the women in space? | Infographic

 

It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in various sectors from politics and banking to engineering and computing, but what about when it comes to space exploration?

In 1963 Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman sent to space, just two years after her male counterpart Yuri Gagarin. At the time only 12 other people had been to space, so it was seemingly a strong start for women. However, as the investment in space exploration grew, so did the gender gap.

Today, despite making up almost 50% of the world’s population, women make up less than 11% of history’s space explorers.

women-in-space

Image Credit: RS Components