Wally Funk (WF) and Mary Holsenbeck (MH)
WF: I get a call that said, ‘Do you wanna be an astronaut?’ I said, ‘Oh my gosh, yes!’ And he said, ‘Be here on Monday to take these tests.’ I had needles stuck on every part of my body; tubes running up my bottom. So, I went along with it. It didn’t bother me. And then they said, ‘We want you to come with a swimsuit. You’re going to go into the isolation tank.’ Well, I didn’t know what that was. The lights come down, they said, ‘Try not to move.’ Well, I didn’t have a whole lot to think about. I’m twenty, I had ten dollars in my pocket. And then finally they said, ‘Wally, you were outstanding. You stayed in ten hours and thirty-five minutes. You did the best of the guys that we’ve had and of the girls.’
MH: So Wally, you went through all of these tests, only to find out that the program had been shut down.
WF: Affirmative. When we got the telegram, that was it and I never heard anything more. So, I went on about my own business. I’m not gonna sit back and pine over anything. I applied to NASA four times and finally they said, ‘Wally, you know, we’re sorry but you don’t have an engineering degree.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ll get one.’ So, I never let anything stop me. I know that my body and my mind can take anything that any space outfit wants to give me. A high altitude chamber test, which is fine, a centrifuge test, which I know I can do five and six Gs. These things are, are, are easy for me.
MH: I know that when it’s your time to go up, I’m gonna be right there cheering you on. You are probably the most fearless person I’ve ever known in my life.
MH: But, I don’t think you truly realize that you have been not only my hero but my mentor. I went through a very nasty divorce and you made a phone call at the right time one afternoon that saved my life. You said, ‘Mary, let’s go flying,’ And I said, ‘Wally, I can’t afford to go flying.’ And you said, ‘I didn’t ask you that. Meet me at the airport.’ And taking me flying, you would pick out a cloud and you would say, ‘Mary, you see that cloud up there?’ I’d say, ’Yes, ma’am.’ You said, ‘Point the nose of this airplane toward that cloud and just fly to it.’ And it was the most freeing feeling. I felt like I was in charge of something when I was in that airplane, and that helped me to put myself back in charge of my own life. So yeah, you fixed the problem.
Every night at ten o’clock you and I will call each other and we discuss our day, what went well, what didn’t go well, and we call it our ten o’clock flight.
MH: So, we go up into the clouds together because Wally, you’ve always told me, ‘When you have problems, go to the clouds.’