When Wally Funk was 8 years old, she jumped off the roof of her barn while wearing a Superman cape, hoping to fly. That desire never left her, and as an adult she became a pilot and flight instructor. But for Wally, the ultimate destination was always outer space.

She almost got the chance to go in 1961. That year, she was part of a group of female pilots who took part in tests to determine if women were fit for space travel. The project was run by the same doctor who developed tests for NASA astronauts.


The women, who became known as the Mercury 13passed many of the same tests as the men, but never got to go to space. More than half a century later, Wally Funk hasn’t given up.

She was interviewed in Dallas by one of her flight students, Mary Holsenbeck.

Wally bought a ticket for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and hopes to be onboard its maiden voyage into space.


Originally aired August 4, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: Wally Funk in 2015 wearing her Virgin Galactic gear. Photo courtesy of Wally Funk.
Middle photo: Wally, circa 1960. Photo courtesy of Wally Funk.
Bottom photo: Wally and Mary, circa 1993. Photo courtesy of Mary Holsenbeck.