In 1961, Wally Funk was among the Mercury 13, the first group of American pilots to pass the ‘Women in Space’ programme. Wally sailed through a series of rigorous physical and mental tests, her scores beating many of the male candidates’, including those of John Glenn, the first American in orbit. But just one week before she was due to enter the final phase of training, the programme was abruptly cancelled. A combination of politics and prejudice meant that none of the women ever flew into space. Undeterred, Wally went on to become one of America’s first female aviation inspectors and civilian flight instructors, though her dream of being an astronaut never dimmed.
In this offbeat odyssey, journalist and fellow space buff Sue Nelson travels with Wally, now approaching her eightieth birthday, as she races to make her giant leap – before it’s too late. Covering their travels across the United States and Europe – taking in NASA’s mission control in Houston and Spaceport America in New Mexico, where Wally’s ride to space awaits – this is a uniquely intimate and entertaining portrait of a true aviation trailblazer.
About the Author
Sue Nelson is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster. She produces documentaries for BBC Radio, co-presents the ‘Space Boffins’ podcast and makes short films on science and space. Her award-winning 2016 documentary ‘Women with the Right Stuff’, on the history of women in space, was one of BBC World Service’s most-listened-to podcasts.
'Wally Funk's story is a textbook study in indefatigable, American, can-do spirit.' The Guardian