North Texas woman prepares for journey of a lifetime

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by SHANNON POWELL HART

WFAA

Posted on July 17, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 17 at 4:43 PM

Wally Funk has waited 51 years to blast into space. She is now scheduled to head to the stars next year and says she's ready for the journey of a lifetime.

“I’m ready,” said Wally Funk, aviation pioneer. “I’ve done all the testing. More than anyone else that has signed up. “

Funk has probably worked longer and harder than anyone else signed up to travel on the Virgin Galactic.

Wally Funk said before she started school, she knew she was destined for the skies.

“When I was five, I knew I wanted to fly,” she said. “So I got my cape on and I jumped off daddy’s farm.”

She’s been trying to bounce into space ever since. At 16, she was flying, thanks to a program at her alma mater.

“It wasn’t until I got to Stephen’s College in Columbia, Missouri that I was really given the permission to learn to fly and got my private pilot’s license,“ she said.

She went on to Oklahoma State, won numerous awards in a field that still was not wide open for women. But her energy and zest for aviation led her to rigorous testing.

It was 1961, she got what she thought was a chance to be an astronaut, a chance to go into space, a chance to be a part of the First Lady Astronaut Trainee Program.

“97 test in one week. From water shot in your ear for 30-seconds to see if your eyes and body are going to go nuts.”

Funk and twelve other women became part of Mercury 13, but they never got off the ground. She said it was political and a feminist fight.

She did not understand the word ”no” and pushed politics aside because of her desire to go into space. Wally was on a mission. She completed nearly every test needed to go into space, but lacked one key piece of the qualifying equation.

“I put in applications to NASA four times," Funk said. "I didn’t have that engineering degree. That’s okay. I still took all the test that I needed to be. I ‘m ready for Virgin Galactic.”

She hopes the White Knight Two will help fulfill her ultimate dream.

“When they get to the proper altitude, this will drop off,” said Funk as she demonstrates who the aircraft with operate during the mission. “Light rocket and go up ahead of white knight two. White Knight Two will come back to New Mexico and I will go up into space with my counter parts of five.”

Funk has been through this process before and ended up on failed missions, but when asked if she thought this mission will take place.

“Yes! It’s got to,” said Funk with a big grin.

E-mail spowell@wfaa.com

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