It’s a proud week for a good friend of mine, Wally Funk. Not a name that rings a bell?
Wally was one of the “Mercury 13” women. And on Saturday, these brave women received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh at its commencement.
Wally’s a pilot extraordinaire. She was the first woman to be employed by the FAA as a crash investigator. And she always wanted to get up into space. So nearly 50 years ago, and at 21 the youngest of the crew, Wally went through all the top secret rigorous tests that the 13 women were subjected to, to see if they could hold up to the psychological and physical stresses of space.
They proved they could. In fact the majority of the women beat their male counterparts – the Mercury 7 men and others - hands down. This is probably what scared the current administration of the time, who firmly cancelled the testing program. And, sadly, John Glenn was a staunch opponent. (It’s rumoured that Wally did better than Glenn on her tests ;)
If you’re interested in reading more on the subject, Martha Ackmann’s book, Mercury 13 tells the story and plight of those brave and daring women.
BTW, Wally’s a BubbaGirl…
* Photo above: Wally and myself at San Diego's Aerospace Museum, in front of the Mercury 7 exhibit.