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Opinion

Wally Funk’s dream come true was good for all of us

Record-breaking flight carries 82-year-old Grapevine hero

Lots of people were delighted for many different reasons with Jeff Bezos’ flight into near space Tuesday.

For us, it was the presence on board of our own Wally Funk, now a history-making Texan who became the oldest person to enter space and someone whose life story should inspire all of us. It’s not only about how far we have come but how far we can go, and how far our spirits, our devotion and our endurance can take us.

At the age of 82, Funk was part of a four-person crew on the 10-minute, 18-second mission there and back again, flying aboard Blue Origin’s private suborbital spacecraft with Bezos, his brother Mark, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen. For Funk, it was a happy ending to her long journey to get to space — a story marked by discrimination that for too long prevented women from chasing their dreams as men could.

Funk has long been a barrier breaker and an adventurer. She has been flying since she was just 17 and has taught thousands of people to fly since. When Funk was younger, she set her sights on space travel and applied to fly with NASA in 1961 as part of the Woman in Space Program. She was one of 13 women to pass the physical examinations to qualify. But none of them ever went to space, according to NASA’s history of the program. Funk was denied on the basis of not having an engineering degree or experience as a test pilot — John Glenn was accepted despite not fitting either of those credentials, according to published reports.

She never let the disappointment break her. As she told The New York Times, “I was brought up that when things don’t work out, you go to your alternative.”

She had to wait the better part of six decades for that alternative, but for seven beautiful seconds Tuesday, she was in space where she deserved to be.

Her life story is only the latest reminder of the struggle women have had through history to be recognized for their accomplishments. It was both purely sweet to witness her joy Tuesday and bittersweet to imagine what could have been.

For her part, Funk seems focused mostly on the sweetness of the moment. Given her big and enduring spirit, we aren’t surprised.

At one point, she said she thought she would never go up. But she did, and like all who enter space, she marveled at it mid-flight. “It’s so dark up here,” she said.

After she landed, in amusement and amazement and exuberance at the trip finally taken and the dream finally realized, she simply said, “Oh my God, it was so good.”

You deserved it, Wally Funk. And your trip was good for all of us.

Dallas Morning News Editorial. Dallas Morning News editorials are written by the paper's Editorial Board and serve as the voice and view of the paper. The board considers a broad range of topics and is overseen by the Editor of Editorials.

editorialboard@dallasnews.com @dmnopinion
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