After 60 years, Fink will finally realize the dream of space and inspire more women in the aerospace industry

“So I hope her space flight will provide her with a new platform to inspire a new generation of women to pursue aerospace careers.”

After 60 years, Wally Funk finally realized his dream of entering space. This will also help inspire a new generation of women to pursue aerospace careers.

Fink is finally going to space.

On Tuesday, when the 82-year-old Fink crossed the space boundary on a rocket made by Blue Origin, she will become the oldest astronaut in history . But this is not what makes her so special.

Fink is one of the few people who have personally experienced two eras of manned spaceflight. First, there was fierce competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in the space field, and now private companies are competing for space tourism market and launch contracts. Because of Fink’s female identity, she was finally excluded from the previous era, and now she is about to experience a new era of spaceflight in person.

After 60 years, Fink will finally realize the dream of space and inspire more women in the aerospace industry

Fink in 2019

Fink’s space journey began in a ski accident in 1956, which crushed two of her vertebrae. Fink was told that she could no longer walk. At the age of 17, she was able to use strong evidence to overturn the “you can’t do” habit. In the process of her recovery, a counselor suggested that she go on flights empty class distraction. In the book Promised the Moon by Stephanie Nolen, Fink said that when she flew the plane for the first time, “(the old wound) just felt like I was stung by a bug.”

Fink flew solo that year and obtained a pilot’s license at the age of 17. Fink seized every opportunity to practice, and even slipped away from the prom to practice night flying. She has a flying time of 19,600 hours and taught more than 3,000 people to fly.

Fink may have spent more time as a pilot than the three men who traveled in space on a plane.

In her fourth year of college, Fink won the title of the most outstanding pilot. When the airport manager presented the trophy to her, he said, “Remember me, if a woman can enter space, it must be Wally or her student.”

When Fink was 21 years old, it all seemed possible. She saw an article entitled “Damp Space Prelude” in “Life” magazine with a picture of a woman floating in an isolated water tank. She immediately wrote to the doctor in the article and the hospital where the experiment was conducted.

“Since I learned to fly, I have been interested in these tests to become an astronaut,” she wrote in a letter to Dr. William Lovelace.

In 1961, three years before Bezos was born, Fink joined the “Women In Space Program” (Women In Space Program) and was tested by astronauts with 12 other women . These tests were designed by Lovelace for astronauts on the Mercury mission. He wants women to undergo the same test to see if they are fit to enter space. They originally did not accept anyone under the age of 24, but they recruited Fink.

The test consisted of injecting ice water into the ears of the subjects to induce dizziness and placing them in a sensory-deprived container. Fink stayed in the water tank for more than 10 hours before the researchers who wanted to go home released her. She was already asleep.

On the whole, women who passed the first round of tests performed as well as men, or even better, and Fink performed particularly well.

All female pilots participating in the test have hundreds or thousands of hours of flight records. In some cases, more men are selected than the astronaut program.

After 60 years, Fink will finally realize the dream of space and inspire more women in the aerospace industry

Fink undergoing astronaut test in 1961

None of these women could go to space in the end. As the US-Soviet space race was heating up, the “female space program” was closed. Soviet astronaut Valentina Tereshkova entered space in 1963, and NASA did not send the first American woman into Earth orbit until 1983.

These women are now commonly referred to as members of the Mercury 13 mission, but they call themselves the first female astronaut trainees (FLAT). Their stories have not been widely known until recently. But among women and those engaged in space research, the story that Fink and his companions tried to become astronauts but failed to enter space because of their gender resonated.

Some of these women see Fink as a hero who breaks the gender barrier, and they hope she can once again become a role model for women.

Planetary scientist, Tania strategy director Planetary Laboratory Science Hali Sen (Tanya Harrison) said: “She not only has the ability to prove, and may enter more capable than men during the Mercury space mission a few years later, she saw It’s incredible to finally get into space.”

“Her enthusiasm and attitude are positively contagious,” Harrison added, “so I hope her space flight will provide her with a new platform to inspire a new generation of women to pursue aerospace careers.”

Fink said that when she learned that the project was cancelled, she was not discouraged.

“I was very young and happy. I just believed it would come,” she said. “Even if it doesn’t work today, it will work in a few months.”

In 1962, she applied twice to NASA to join the Gemini mission, and again in 1966. Over the years, she applied to become an astronaut four times, all of which were rejected on the grounds that Fink had never received an engineering degree. But the truth is that when astronaut John Glenn was selected for the Mercury mission, he also had no engineering degree.

Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate who accompanied Fink on Tuesday, also does not have an engineering degree.

For the past 60 years, Fink has been trying to find another way to get into space.

“I was told that when things don’t go well, you can choose another way,” she said.

In 2010, Fink spent $200,000 to buy a ticket to Virgin Galactic, hoping to finally take this opportunity to enter space. It is difficult to skip the space race between the two billionaires, wondering if Bezos invited Fink to travel in space to surpass Richard Branson. After all, it was Bezos who sent Fink into space in the end.

Cadillac Coleman (Cady Co LEM AN) is a NASA astronaut, who worked on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. She believes that this invitation is a message to Fink and many other women who work in obscurity in the aerospace industry.

“Wally-you are important. What you do is important. I salute you.” Coleman thought Bezos was expressing this. She added: “When Wally flew, we all went with her.”

But for many women and those engaged in space and astronomy, the subtlety of this moment is far more than the realization of a lifelong dream.

Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, said, “On the one hand, I am excited for her because she can finally realize her long-held dream.” On the other hand, she can This opportunity was not obtained because the factors that had kept her out of the door were solved, but Bezos , as the gatekeeper, opened the door to space for her.”

This form of gatekeeper prevents many women from achieving greater success in the fields of space flight and space science. Of the 13 women who participated in the astronaut test, only Fink and Gene Nora Jessen were still alive. Jason had to stop flying in 2017 due to physical reasons. Fink struggled for 60 years before finally realizing his space journey.

“These personal stories and victories are important, but they are not universal,” Volkovic added.

Katie Mack, an astrophysicist and assistant professor of astronomy at North Carolina State University, also talked about Fink’s excitement in entering space and who should make the decision.

Mike said: “Now I start to select astronauts based on a whim and money. This is a change I am still struggling to deal with.” “Obviously, as we have seen from Fink, like NASA The agency may make the wrong choice to exclude those who might otherwise be good astronauts. However, even though I now fully support Bezos’ decision to choose Fink for space, I still don’t know if I prefer the new standard.”

As the opportunities offered by commercial space flight are no longer based on skills, but on the size of a person’s wallet, people will have to continue to ask the question: Who is the right person to enter space?

But now, in the four-minute weightlessness of the Blue Origin capsule on Tuesday, space will belong to Fink, as well as three other people who are lucky enough to witness Fink’s joy with their own eyes .

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