'Fascinating and poignant... puts the story of women in space front and centre' – Dallas Campbell
Wally Funk’s Race for Space
The Extraordinary Story of a Female Aviation Pioneer
The incredible story of one of history’s 'hidden figures' set against the backdrop of space exploration – past, present and future.
In 1961, Wally Funk was among the Mercury 13, the first group of American pilots to pass the ‘Woman in Space’ programme. Wally sailed through a series of rigorous physical and mental tests, with one of her scores beating those of all the male Mercury 7 astronauts, including John Glenn, the first American in orbit. But just one week before 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.
Since then, Wally has travelled the world, flown above it and become one of America’s first female aviation inspectors, air-safety investigators and civilian flight instructors. Still regularly taking to the skies as a pilot, she has clocked up 19,000 flight hours and taught over 3,000 students. All along her dream of being an astronaut has never dimmed. Six decades on, she is waiting to enter Earth’s orbit as a paying passenger.
In this offbeat odyssey, the journalist and fellow space buff Sue Nelson joins Wally, now approaching her eightieth birthday, as she races to make her own giant leap before it’s too late. Covering their travels across the United States and Europe – taking in NASA’s mission control in Houston, the European Space Agency’s headquarters in Paris and Spaceport America in New Mexico, where Wally’s ride into space awaits – this is a uniquely intimate and entertaining portrait of a true aviation trailblazer.