82-year-old Wally Funk joins Jeff Bezos in space 60 years after her first attempt

Jeff Bezos and Wally Funke embrace prior to the Blue Origin lift-off. Credit: Jeff Bezos/Instagram/AP

Wally Funk once came agonisingly close to going to space. As a space-obsessed 23-year-old in the 1960s, she took part in a programme set out to determine if women were as suited to spaceflight as men.

The 82-year-old passed with flying colours, but was ultimately denied an astronaut position because of her gender.

On Tuesday, Ms Funk finally achieved her lifelong goal. Alongside three others, she has accompanied Jeff Bezos into space on the Amazon founder's own rocket.

Mr Bezos' space travel company, Blue Origin, launched from West Texas on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Following blast-off, 18-year-old passenger Oliver Daemen became the youngest person to ever hurtle off the planet. Ms Funk became the oldest.

Watch Ms Funk and the Blue Origin crew soar into space

"I got my first try at flying by flying my Superman cape off my daddy's barn when I was about five years old," she previously told a NASA historian.

As a school pupil, Ms Funk earned a private aviation license, then enrolled in Oklahoma State University ("the best flight school in the United States at that time") aged 19.

After graduating, she bagged a job as a flight instructor at US Army post Fort Sill.

It was at Fort Sill Ms Funk learnt of the Woman in Space Programme - an Air Force project interested in testing women’s capabilities for spaceflight.

Ms Funk wrote to the organisers "immediately".

"I had no idea that things could be done to my body and to my mind that they did do," she said.

"Being a grown-up now, I might have had some reservations going in."

Ms Funk (second to left) stands with the 13 women who passed the tests in America's first human spaceflight programme. Credit: Nasa

Alongside 19 others, Ms Funk was pushed to exhaustion on a stationary bicycle while her respiration was monitored. She also swallowed a rubber tube so doctors could test her stomach acids. To determine how fast she could recover from vertigo, an "off balance" sensation was induced by shooting ice water into her ears.Despite the programme's gruelling nature, Ms Funk aced every test. She was among 12 other women dubbed the 'Mercury 13' - they were thought to be the first American women to pass sophisticated aerospace medical tests.

The fanfare meant little, however. The Mercury 13 were told they could not become astronauts as their programme was being cancelled.

A dejected Ms Funk tried writing to NASA repeatedly, but was told the agency required all astronauts to be graduates of military jet test piloting programmes and have engineering degrees. In 1962, no women could meet these requirements.Despite her disappointment, Ms Funk's passion for flight remained alive. She built an impressive aviation career while continuing to embark on spaceflight tests across the US.

"I've done everything I could possibly do to learn and grasp more about the wonderful world of space travel," she said.

Ms Funk's enthusiasm continued throughout decades and into a new era of commercial space flight.

After Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson announced he planned to take people into space, Ms Funk put a deposit down for the flight.

Ultimately, it was another spacebound billionaire that would gift Ms Funk her dream.

Approximately 60 years after her first attempt at space travel, Mr Bezos handpicked her as his “honoured guest” for Tuesday's flight.

“Nothing has ever gotten in my way,” she said in an Instagram video posted by Bezos earlier this month.

“They said, ‘Well, you’re a girl, you can’t do that.’ I said, ’Guess what, doesn’t matter what you are. You can still do it if you want to do it and I like to do things that nobody has ever done.” Denied the chance to become the first American woman to reach space, Ms Funk has become the oldest person in the world to ever do so.

She has beaten the John Glenn, who set a record at age 77 in 1998. Mr Glenn had previously rubbished the idea of women flying in space. Ms Funk's message to those that hold similar views?

"The men today that think that we can't, as women, do things - sorry, folks, we can do it."