Wally Funk’s Race for Space
Sue Nelson The Westbourne Press £14.99 z HB
Since 1961 Mary Wallace ‘Wally’ Funk has had the ‘right stuff’ to make the journey into space. She was among the first group of American pilots to pass the Mercury 13 programme, which tested women under the same conditions as NASA astronauts. But just one week before the final phase of testing, as a result of politics and prejudice, the programme was abruptly cancelled.
Undeterred, Funk devoted the rest of her life to getting to space. She’s almost 80 now and there are no signs of the veteran aviator letting up. In this book Funk and author Sue Nelson go on the road together to visit such places as NASA, ESA and Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport. We learn about their time together and their shared respect for all women who have defied the odds and lived life by their own rules.
The narrative flows wonderfully under Nelson’s light and witty style. Funk’s energy, single-mindedness and bloodyminded determination is often trying for Nelson as her travel companion, and the two clash over simple things, much to the amusement of the reader. The book points out that these characteristics are Funk’s greatest strength.
Nelson’s desire for Funk to still make it into space is apparent, and she pleads the case well, as a friend as well as a journalist. But is it too late?
“I wish I was born 20 years later,” Funk admits. “Now I can’t do anything but support space or lecture in schools about STEM. But honey, I wouldn’t change my life for one minute.”
This is a truly inspiring book about friendship, women’s place in the history of aviation and space and the cost of a dream.