This month, two billionaires will be flying to space aboard their very own commercial launch vehicles. The first to go will be Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who will be a passenger aboard the inaugural crewed flight of the New Shepard on July 20th. Mark Bezos, Jeff’s brother, will be accompanying him on this flight, as will the person who won the auction that wrapped up on June 12th (they bid $28 million for the seat).
On July 1st, Blue Origin announced that the fourth passenger on this historic flight would be Wally Funk, a pioneer in aerospace who trained to become an astronaut back in the 1960s. As part of the “Mercury 13” Woman in Space Program, Funk was one of several qualified test pilots and graduated at the top of her class. And now, sixty years later, she is once again a pioneer since she is the oldest person that has ever flown to space.
In the coming generations, humanity’s presence in space is expected to grow considerably. With everything from space tourism, the commercialization of Low Earth Orbit (LEO), asteroid mining, and maybe even settlements on the Moon and Mars in mind, there appears to be no limit to what we hope to accomplish. Another interesting thing about the modern space age is the way it is becoming more open and accessible, with more people and nations able to take part.
Unlike the Space Race, where two nations dominated the playing field and astronauts corps were almost exclusively made up of white men, space exploration today is more representative. However, there are still many challenges and barriers for women and people of color in space exploration and the related STEAM fields, not all of which are visible. Addressing these requires that we become better at listening to those who deal with them.
To this end, the Space Court Foundation (SCF) is launching a new series titled “Women of Color in Space.” As part of their mission to foster a conversation about space law and the future of space exploration today, this series interviews women of color who have made it their mission to advance space exploration and fulfill the promise of making space “the province of all of humanity.”