Oldest woman to travel to space says flight was ‘so smooth’ | News

The oldest woman to travel to space didn’t know who Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was before he asked her to join him on a flight.

“I have no idea why he picked me. I have no idea how they ever found my name,” said Wally Funk, 82, an aviation pioneer who on Wednesday will be honored at Stephens College, her alma mater.

“I’ve never bought anything from Amazon.” she said, laughing.

She flew on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin New Shepard launch vehicle July 20, becoming the oldest woman to rocket into space.

The Blue Origin aircraft reached an altitude of about 66 miles. Passengers experienced several minutes of weightlessness floating around in the white space capsule, according to Associated Press coverage of the flight.

Funk described the brief space flight as the best accomplishment of her life.

“You’re sitting there, and you don’t even know you’re moving. There was never a bump on takeoff… Then we’re coming back, and … Jeff was so clever. He had three engines underneath our vehicle. We landed at one mile an hour. So smooth. ”

Funk has been always interested in aviation since a young age.

When she was about 15 years old, Stephens College officials visited her hometown in Taos, N.M., and invited her to attend the private school in Columbia. She attended Stephens College for two years to get her private pilot’s license before going to Oklahoma State University.

“When I was 2 years old, the folks had me at an airport in Taos, and I went right over to that DC-3 (aircraft),” Funk said. “And I started trying to turn a wheel, a nut on a wheel, and mother said, ‘What are you doing?’ “

Funk said she told her mother, “I want to make sure that all the nuts are tight before this airplane takes off.”

Now that she accomplished her long-time dream of traveling to space, Funk is hoping to get back to being a flight instructor.

In 1959, she was a member of NASA’s Mercury 13, a group of women selected to train as astronauts. However, the following year, NASA decided that only men could join the space program.

But Funk continued to be a trailblazer for women in aviation. She served as a Federal Aviation Administration inspector.

In her time, she has taught over 100 people in 40 countries across the world.

“I’ve done a lot of firsts in my life. I can’t tell you everything because a lot of stuff I’ve forgotten,” said Funk.

Funk will be honored at Stephens College on Wednesday. A ceremony is expected to take place at 6:30 p.m at the Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall, 6 N. College Ave.

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TSA chief expects “smooth” holiday travel despite projected increase in airport crowds

The expected surge in holiday travel and the possible firing of unvaccinated Transportation Security Administration agents will not bring chaos to the nation’s airports, the head of the TSA said Wednesday.

The most recent data show that about 40% of the agency’s workforce had either not received a single COVID-19 vaccine shot or not submitted their vaccination status as of last month despite a looming November 22 deadline. Experts fear that a possible staff shortage would create the perfect storm across U.S. airports, which are expected to see up to 80% more travelers compared to last year, reaching near pre-pandemic levels.

But TSA Administrator David Pekoske brushed off those concerns, saying most passengers should expect to spend about 30 minutes going through security.

“If they’re a pre-check passenger, 10 minutes or less,” Pekoske told “CBS Mornings.”

“I don’t think they should expect chaos… We’re very confident that this is going to be a very smooth operation over the next several days,” he said.

As for the vaccine mandate, Pekoske said the number of TSA employees who have received at least one shot has “improved greatly” and that he does not expect Monday’s deadline to have “any impact whatsoever on Thanksgiving travel.” 

“And the good news for travelers is that more and more people, including TSA employees, are now vaccinated, so from a public health perspective it’s a much safer experience,” he said. 

Pekoske said terminations would come only after a “progressive discipline process” and after every request for medical or religious exemptions is considered. 

“So we’ll go through the process of looking at each one of those individual cases and make a determination over the next several weeks,” he said. “Yes, there is the potential if you do not have an approved exemption and you are not vaccinated that you will lose your job because it’s very important that we have our workforce fully vaccinated.”

In addition to flying, millions of Americans are also expected to hit the roads this Thanksgiving holiday, with AAA projecting that 53 million people will travel next week.

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Early prep, correct gear and staying informed are key for smooth travel this winter

 OLYMPIA – With winter just around the corner, now is the best time to make plans and prepare for winter driving.

The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to get themselves and their vehicles ready for winter weather well before they head out. Drivers can visit WSDOT’s winter driving web page for tips and information. WSDOT also asks travelers to always “know before you go” and get the most up-to-date transportation information both while planning trips and during travel.

“Our crews work hard to keep roads clear, but we also need the public’s help to keep traffic moving during winter weather,” said WSDOT Maintenance Operations Manager James Morin. “Most pass closures are due to preventable spin outs or crashes with vehicles going too fast or not having proper winter equipment.

“This winter, being prepared and staying informed will be even more important because staffing shortages will affect our ability to clear roadways and passes as quickly as in years past,” Morin added.

WSDOT crews are already planning for winter storms, but ongoing staffing challenges mean that some areas may not see the traditional 24-hour service, some roadways will not be plowed as often, and compact snow and ice will remain on roadways longer than a typical winter. This will be especially true during large or long-lasting storms. WSDOT determines its storm response based on safety, available resources and pre-set priority plow maps for highest volume and/or critical roadways. Travelers should be sure to check conditions before and during travel and always have proper winter weather supplies before heading out.

To check conditions and prepare for winter weather:

Alternatives to chains
Although some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains for certain models, the state’s traction device laws still apply to all vehicles. These requirements exist to help keep all traffic moving safely during extreme winter conditions.

The Washington State Patrol provides an online list of state-approved alternative traction devices on its vehicle equipment webpage under “traction tires.” These approved alternatives meet state traction tire requirements and can be used instead of chains when chains are required. Not every alternative on the market has been approved by WSP, so please check the website before making purchases. All travelers are reminded to prepare for changing weather conditions and avoid a costly ticket by carrying chains or approved alternatives whenever crossing mountain passes. Failure to obey a tire chains sign can mean a ticket of up to $500. Special chain enforcement patrols will be keeping an eye on mountain passes this winter.

Studded tires
By law, studded tires are only legal for use in Washington state from Nov. 1 through March 31. This applies to all vehicles in Washington, even those traveling from other states, and no personal exemptions or waivers exist to allow for earlier use of studded tires.

WSDOT estimates studded tires cause between $20 million and $29 million in pavement damage to state-owned roadways (asphalt and concrete roadway damage combined) each year. WSDOT encourages motorists to visit a tire dealer to learn more about their winter tire options, including stud-free, winter tread traction tires. This type of tire is different than an all-season tire, is legal year-round and does not cause the same roadway damage as studded tires. More information about studded-tire restrictions and requirements can be found in the FAQ on the WSP website.

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Train Travel With Kids: Tips for a Smooth Journey From Parents and Travel Experts

It seemed like an exciting, novel way to kick off our family ski trip: taking the train from New Orleans to Denver via Chicago, before renting a car for the last leg to the resort. In reality, the journey went down in family lore for all the wrong reasons: trains packed with rowdy spring breakers, extensive delays, and a chilly night huddled in a frigid upstairs viewing car because it was the only place we could get seats together amidst the chaos and crowds.

About three decades later, the delights of train travel with my own family—my husband and our almost-five-year-old son—thankfully far outweigh the mishaps. We’re lucky to live in Europe, the holy grail of rail networks, and although train travel in the U.S. might not be as extensive, having the right gear and strategy helps make it as seamless as possible.

Along the way, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for how well-suited rail travel can be for families—a view shared by parents like Karen Zimet, a Charlottesville, Virginia-based accountant and avid traveler who has explored many train routes with her husband and two daughters.

“You’re strapped into a seat with most other kinds of transportation, but on a train you have this extra freedom kids are always looking for,” Zimet says. “You can move around, go sit in the dining car, or just walk the length of the train. And it’s almost like a little voyeuristic view of parts of cities and towns you wouldn’t get to see otherwise, like walled-in backyards along the route, or spotting animals out the window. I think we once sang ‘Old McDonald’ for two hours because my youngest would see some animal and we’d sing about it.”

Not that every trip will be all cheerful sing-alongs, of course: Traveling with kids, no matter how you do it, is rarely stress-free. But armed with insider tips, tricks, and hacks from train aficionados like Zimet and other industry experts, you can make your family’s train adventure as much fun as the destination itself (i.e., no frostbitten fingers in the frozen viewing deck).

All products featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

First, do your research

Parents new to train travel with kids can often be overwhelmed by the idea. Where should they go? How long should the trip be? What kind of tickets should they book?

Katie Brown, an independent affiliate of Ciao Bambino, Inc., a boutique agency that specializes in family travel, recommends Google Maps as a helpful starting point. After choosing two (or more) destinations and selecting the train icon for directions, users can see in a few seconds which operators offer service, how many transfers are involved, and how long the trip is estimated to take, plus other key intel.

“That’s the easiest way to get a general overview,” Brown explains. “It will also give you the names of the train companies and the train stations, so you can look at that to plan things further.”

Dig into the operator’s schedules and deals

In destinations with extensive train networks, some providers offer specific perks for passengers with kids, including free or discounted tickets for younger children, but usually, reservations must be made in order to hold the seat, especially on popular routes. The difference between coach and business fare can be minimal, but many parents say they often prefer non-business class cars because of their more kid-friendly environments.

Private or sleeping rooms that include their own bathroom are also a popular option for families both domestically and abroad, especially as the pandemic lingers. In the U.S., Amtrak’s Family Bedroom, available on all of its overnight routes west of Chicago, is a great choice for up to two adults and two children, according to a company spokesperson.

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