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 all the male Mercury 7 astronauts’, including John Glenn’s, 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. Undeterred, Wally went on to become America’s first female aviation safety inspector, though her dream of being an astronaut never dimmed.
Learn how journalist and fellow space buff Sue Nelson joined Wally, now approaching her 80th birthday, for a journey across the United States and Europe – taking in NASA’s mission control in Houston, the European Space Agency’s HQ in Paris and Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Join Sue, author of Wally Funk's Race for Space, for an inspiring and entertaining portrait of a true aviation trailblazer.
About the speaker
Sue Nelson is a British journalist and broadcaster, presenter of the Space Boffins podcast and a former BBC science correspondent. As well as writing, she produces radio documentaries, short films and is an experienced TV and radio reporter/presenter.
An avid space fan, Sue wrote to NASA as a teenager asking how to become an astronaut. She ended up reporting on space missions for the BBC instead. She has seen rocket launches from French Guiana (ESA) and Cape Canaveral (NASA), enjoyed the Aurora Borealis in Alaska and Iceland, and witnessed eclipses in Peru, the UK and, most recently, the United States.
Her awards include a 2017 New York International Radio Festivals International Radio Program award, a Knight Wallace Journalism Fellowship in space science, an Observer Travel Writer Award and an Association of British Science Writers Award. Her first book, How to Clone the Perfect Blonde, was long listed for the 2004 Science Book Prize.
The Athena SWAN Charter recognises the advancement of gender equality: representation, progression and success for all.
The University of York was the first Yorkshire university to win the Athena SWAN bronze award in recognition of its success in providing positive support for women scientists during their careers. The university has continued to hold a bronze award since 2006 and is now recognised for work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly.
The University's Departments of Chemistry and Biology hold a gold award. Chemistry was the first academic department in the UK to win an award at this highest level. In addition, the Hull York Medical School and the University of York’s Departments of Psychology and Physics hold silver awards. The following departments and centres all hold bronze awards: Archaeology, Education, English and Related Literature, History, Politics, Electronic Engineering, Health Sciences, Mathematics, Environment, Health Economics.