At the age of 82, former NASA trainee astronaut Wally Funk must have believed that her dreams of leaving Earth were long-gone. But on 20 July 2021, she became the oldest person to fly in space, as part of the first crewed mission of Blue Origin's New Shepard mission which took off from a desert in West Texas, USA.


Wally was part of a crew of four private citizens who flew past the Kármán Line, the internationally recognised boundary of space, to a height of approximately 100 kilometres above the surface of the Earth.

The New Shepard is controlled only by its onboard computers, with no human pilot and no help from a ground control team. Blue Origin expects to fly two additional crewed flights this year, with more planned for 2022.

The crew

The Blue Origin Astronaut Crew pose for a team shot on the 17 July 2021. From Left to right: Oliver Daemen, Wally Funk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos. Photo by Blue Origin

Rolling out in the desert

30.000s, Automated Frame Average
Roll out of Blue Origin 18 June 2021 in the West Texas desert, USA. Photo by Blue Origin

Launch drawing closer

The New Shepard launch site, in the west Texas desert, USA. Photo by Blue Origin

Getting their wings

The mission patch for the first flight of New Shepard is proudly displayed by Jazz Bezos, founder of the Blue Origin spaceflight company and former CEO of Amazon. Photo by Blue Origin

We have lift-off

New Shepard is blasted into space on the 20 July 2021, as the first manned mission of Blue Origin's programme gets underway. Photo by Blue Origin


Oliver Deamen and Mark Bezos play a game of catch in their capsule above the Earth. Photo by Blue Origin

Hi Mom

Mark and Jeff Bezos have some words of greeting for their mum as they float above the Earth. Photo by Blue Origin

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Easy does it

New Shepard lands safety in the West Texas desert, USA, on the 20 July 2021. Photo by Blue Origin

Worth the wait

Wally Funk emerging from the New Shepard Capsule, after becoming the oldest person ever to go into space, breaking John Glenn's record. Photo by Blue Origin

Mission complete

The Blue Origin team behind the launch of New Shepard pose for a team photo in the West Texas desert USA, upon successful completion of the first manned Blue Origin mission, 20 July 2021. Photo by Blue Origin

Wally Funk comes full-circle

Having missed out on going to space when NASA chose the cancel the Mercury 13 project in the 1960s, Wally Funk continued to work as a pilot and flying instructor, flying over 19,000 hours. Photo by Blue Origin


James CutmorePicture Editor, BBC Science Focus

James Cutmore is the picture editor of BBC Science Focus Magazine, researching striking images for the magazine and on the website. He is also has a passion for taking his own photographs