Wally Fink’s 60-year late space dream: 22-year-old once rubbed shoulders with space because of her identity as a woman
Original title: Wally Fink’s 60-year late space dream: 22-year-old rubbing shoulders with space because of her identity, 82-year-old went to heaven with Bezos
60 years ago, as NASA As an aerospace candidate, she was once only one step away from this dream, but was eventually eliminated as a woman and missed the space journey. Sixty years later, the 82-year-old Fink boarded Blue Origin’s new Shepard rocket and successfully rushed to the universe with Bezos, the world’s richest man, setting the record for the oldest astronaut in human history.
Yesterday, when their New Shepard rocket rose to the gamma line, Fink unfastened his seat belt and floated into the air. She was pleasantly surprised and shouted, “This is amazing, I love this feeling!” Outside the porthole was the dark blue universe and the earth shrouded in atmosphere.
After 11 minutes of traveling in space, the rocket returned to Earth and landed safely. A silver-haired Fink poked her head out of the cockpit with excitement. She opened her arms, as happy as a child. “It’s great, I want to fly again immediately!”
At that moment, the great wheel of time was reversed, and this old man, who had passed his elder years, seemed to have returned to her 22-year-old Look like. After a full 60 years, Wally Fink’s space dream has finally come true at this moment.
Wally· The flying genes in Fink’s body seem to be innate. In 1940, when she was just one year old, she was taken by her parents to an airport near New Mexico and boarded an early Douglas DC-3 airliner. As a baby at the time, she tried to turn the steering wheel with great interest and tried to turn the nut. Her mother said in surprise, “Look, she can fly a plane.”
As he grows older, Fink’s desire for the sky becomes stronger and stronger. At the age of five, she once jumped from her father’s barn in a superman cloak to try if she could fly; at the age of seven, she became interested in machinery and began to make airplane models out of wood; at the age of nine, She took the first flight lesson in her life and had the experience of flying in the sky for the first time in a 15-minute flight.
“I still remember how beautiful the sky was and how the ground looked like at that time. I thought at the time that I belonged to the sky.” Fink said in a previous Guardian interview.
However, in that era when women were severely suppressed, it was basically impossible for girls to engage in flying-related careers.
Wally· When Fink was a child, the picture was from the official website of Oklahoma State University.
In high school, she wanted to study mechanical drawing and auto mechanics. She dreamed of becoming an aircraft engineer in the future. However, because she is a girl, she Only allowed to study home economics, baking and other courses. People told her, Wally, you are a girl and you can’t learn those things.
But Wally Fink is a special existence. She likes to take risks and challenges. She is not afraid to break the rules and regulations given to her by society. In addition to going home and eating in skirts every day like every ordinary girl, Fink also learns to ride horses, skis, and hunts like a boy, and is proficient in everything.
At the age of 14, she won the Outstanding Rifleman Award from the American Rifle Association. Her incredible shooting performance was even praised by the then U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower. In the same year, she also represented the Southwestern United States in the top women’s ski and downhill competitions in the country.
However, compared to these, the sky is Fink’s ultimate dream. After graduating from high school, Fink came to Stephens College in Missouri to study aviation. In 1958, she was the first in the class, received an associate’s degree and obtained a pilot’s license.
Since then, she has participated in the “Flying Aggies” program of Oklahoma State University. During this period, she has obtained a large number of aviation certificates and ratings, and won the “Outstanding Female Pilot” trophy and “Flying Aggies” for two consecutive years. “Aggies top pilot” and other honors. It stood out among a group of male students and perfectly explained what is meant by “who says women are inferior to men”.
At the age of 20 , Fink, who already has extensive aerospace experience, got her first job in life-serving as a flight instructor at a US military base in Oklahoma, and she is also the first and only female instructor on the base.
In ten years, Wally Fink has fulfilled his childhood dream of a pilot. But her pursuit of the sky does not stop there.
Mercury 13’s youngest candidate
In 1958, as part of the space race against the Soviet Union, the United States officially launched Project Mercury. The Mercury program is the first manned space program in the United States, and NASA, which has just been established, is responsible for recruiting astronauts for the program. The conditions for recruitment at that time included: age 20-40, graduated from navy or air force school, have at least 1500 hours of flying market, weigh no more than 81.6 kg, and the most important one-limited to pilots with fighter experience.
Why is this important? Because at the time, the United States stipulated that only men could fly fighter jets, which meant that all women were blocked from spaceflight.
After several months of careful selection, seven quasi-astronauts came to the fore, known as the “Mercury Seven”. At that time, the Soviet-American competition was in the fierce stage. These seven energetic and bright smiling youths were regarded as the national team of the space race and became the most dazzling stars of the time.
And responsible for this Dr. William Lovelace of the second astronaut screening test, after selecting the “Seven Heroes of Mercury”, turned his attention to female astronauts. He believes that a small spacecraft may be more suitable for women who are petite and lighter, and that women’s ability to withstand pressure is not necessarily worse than that of men. As a result, with the support of the rich old man at the time, they initiated a call for female astronauts across the United States in the name of the Medical Foundation.
After reading the news in the newspaper, the 22-year-old Fink immediately wrote to Lovelace, expressing his strong wishes. Although the age standard for screening female astronauts was set between 25 and 40 years old, under Fink’s super strong resume, the project admitted Fink to the outside world, and she became one of the 25 top female pilots selected. The youngest one.
At that time, these women were determined to become female astronauts and participated in extremely strict physical fitness tests. The selection criteria were exactly the same as those of male astronauts. Except for the youngest Fink, the oldest candidate, Jane Hart, is 41 years old and the mother of eight children.
“We don’t know what we will experience, and we don’t know where they will take us.” Fink recalled. “But we think what men can do, so can we.”
But what they didn’t expect at all was that the physical fitness test in the next week was called the “devil”.
Because there was no human experience in space at that time, scientists were completely imaginative about what the human body would suffer during spaceflight. Therefore, the test was done in a way that challenged the limits of the human body—every bone in the body. They were all irradiated with X-rays, and water at minus 12 degrees Celsius was directly injected into the ears. The experiment was severely dizzy. He swallowed a rubber tube to test stomach acid and experienced complete sensory deprivation.
Although the process was extremely cruel, 13 women eventually passed the test, and Fink, who was only 22 years old, ranked third among them. She even spent 10 hours and 35 minutes in the sensory deprivation tank, surpassing that of a male astronaut.
However, just when they were so excited that they were going to be the next executors of the Mercury program, Eisenhower, the then President of the United States, signed a rule that only male military pilots can be qualified. Selected as an astronaut for Project Mercury. A hopeful test eventually became Nan Ke Yimeng for these 13 female pilots.
Part of Mercury 13 Of the female pilots at the launch site in 1995. The second from the left is Fink. The picture is from NASA’s official website.
Although they did not successfully fly into the sky, they were the first batch of trained female quasi-astronauts in the history of the United States. His experience has had great pioneering significance for the American space industry, and has opened up decades of space gender resistance. In 1995, when Irene Collins became the first female space shuttle commander in the United States, she solemnly invited members of Mercury XIII to the launch site to witness this moment. In 2018, Netflix also produced a documentary called “Mercury 13” specifically for this history.
The members of Mercury 13 are getting older, and running to the universe seems to have become an unattainable dream for them. But Fink, the youngest, was always fighting.
Space invitation from Bezos
Although he suffered a blow on Project Mercury, in the next few years, Fink participated in more astronaut test attempts. Prove your ability.
“I took about six or seven different tests afterwards, and each time I passed with a high level of performance. My test results were not lost to male pilots.” She wrote repeatedly to NASA , Expressing his strong will, and striving for his own space opportunity. But the rejection letter came back one by one for a simple reason-she didn’t have an engineering degree. At the time, engineering degrees were only open to men.
Under the towering southern wall of gender, Fink’s dream of space has been repeatedly frustrated. But Fink has been flying in the sky waiting for an opportunity.
She continued her career as a pilot instructor, participated in various aviation competitions, and learned aviation knowledge. In 1971, she became the first woman to complete the FAA General Aviation Operations Inspector Academy course. In 1974, she became the first female aviation safety investigator of the National Transportation Safety Board. Over the decades of her professional career, she has taught more than 3,000 people to fly, flying more than 19,600 hours in the sky.
Worked in the U.S. Army Fink, a flight instructor at the base. The picture is from Blue Origin
In 1995, Fink, who had retired, submitted another application after learning that NASA had begun accepting female astronauts. He was declined again because of his age. For many people, life is over halfway, and the pursuit of dreams may come to an end here, but Fink still doesn’t give up.
In 2010, after realizing that she might no longer be a pilot of a space shuttle after she was over 70, she decided to go to space even as a tourist. So she spent $200,000 to purchase a pre-sale space ticket for Virgin Galactic founded by Richard Branson. Although she didn’t know when the ticket would be honored at the time, she had to seize it even if it was a little opportunity.
However, to her surprise, her space dream was not first completed by Virgin Galactic to help her, but from Virgin Galactic’s rival company-Blue Origin.
On July 1 this year, 19 days before Blue Origin’s first human space flight program, Bezos personally visited 82-year-old Wally Fink and invited her to board for free. The New Shepard became the fourth passenger on its first flight.
When he heard the news, Fink was incredulous and then excited. She embraced Bezos excitedly. And when Bezos told Fink that she could finally be an astronaut, Fink exclaimed, “Finally!”
Bezos The scene when I told Fink, the picture is from Bezos Ins
On the morning of July 20, Fink, wearing an astronaut suit and a silver hair, walked vigorously on the “New Sheppel” “Germany” rocket. For this moment, she has been waiting for 60 years. (For the launch of the “New Shepard”, you can check the previous live broadcast of the Silicon Stars.)
At the press conference after landing, Fink excitedly shared his experience in space with everyone, and She was awarded the astronaut badge she had dreamed of at the scene. When the host choked with sobs and said “Walley, thank you for always inspiring us, congratulations”, Fink immediately replied firmly, “More to come!” Many people instantly moistened their eyes.
Although Bezos and Branson’s commercial aerospace trip have been controversial, for Wally Fink, almost everyone congratulated her for fulfilling her lifelong dream. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “Wally Fink is the person I want to see most now. She is a true American sweetheart.”
Wally Fink is unmarried and has no children. Dedicated her life to the flying career. She once said that the sky is my partner.
Although he is 82 years old, Wally Fink’s space journey continues. Perhaps soon, she will take a Virgin Galactic flight and rush to the vast universe again.