This retired professor has a ticket to follow Wally Funk, 82, into space. How the billionaire space race is redefining ‘astronaut’

Wally Funk beamed ear to ear as she strode onto the stage in a blue jumpsuit and thrust her arms skyward in front of a cheering crowd after becoming the oldest person ever to leave the planet. Earlier that day she’d blasted off on a suborbital flight aboard Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s New Shepard rocket, in a moment that was sixty years in the making. The 82-year-old had completed a program in the early 1960s for female pilots who vied to become astronauts, but never got the chance at space.As she fulfilled her own dream, she also emerged as a silver-haired icon for earthlings below who realized that, for the first time, dreams of travelling among the stars might not be limited by age or athletic ability. Among them? Judy Anderson, 69, a retired University of Manitoba science professor and aspiring future space traveller, who has ticket 623 to take off on a Virgin Galactic flight sometime in the future. She loved every bit of Funk’s story, she said. “Women have been fighting for equal opportunity for way longer than 60 years and finally, somebody gives the gift — that opportunity denied all that time ago for her,” she said.The past week has seen launches by two aspiring space companies. While the advent of space tourism has been controversial due to the exorbitant costs and lack of regulation, advocates argue it’s already opening up space to demographics not normally seen in the halls of NASA. As Anderson watched Funk’s flight on Tuesday she marvelled at the female pilot’s achievement, but also that of one of her fellow passengers — Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old Dutchman who simultaneously became the youngest person to go into space. To put that into context, the blond teen with the wide smile was born about the same time Funk became eligible for old-age benefits. While Funk went at the invitation of Bezos, Daemen’s price of admission is unknown. He was an eleventh-hour fill in for an as-of-yet unidentified winner of a $28-million charity auction who couldn’t make it. Anderson called having the youngest and oldest people ever to go to space on the same flight “a marvellous idea.” During their flight Funk, Daemon and the Bezos brothers floated in zero gravity and tossed ping-pong balls to each other.“Imagine what it’s like if grandma goes up, comes back and is talking to granddaughter or grandson and they are asking questions?” she said.Kids are going to grow up thinking they can go to space without being a jet-fighter pilot or a super athlete, she adds.Barriers remain, though. Anderson acknowledges that the cost is unreachable for most people — she has put $20,000 as a down payment toward her $200,000 Virgin Galactic ticket. As a retired professor she doesn’t have the deep pockets of a billionaire but says she’ll basically live off mac and cheese from now on.She hopes the price for other astronaut hopefuls will come down over time.Anderson is set to travel with Virgin Galactic, a company founded by Richard Branson and the main rival to Bezos’ company, Blue Origin, in the new billionaire space race.As she watched the flight Anderson also thought of what she learned in high school physics about velocity and the differences between the Bezos flight and Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson’s just days earlier.She thought about the feeling she gets on a swing when her stomach drops down to her feet before coming back up.“Don’t you love being on the swing? When you swing hard and you get up to the top and you’re sort of semi weightless just for a fraction of a second and then you power back down and you’re fast,” she said.“It’s just so marvellous, just to feel the world.”It’s not clear how long it will be before Anderson gets to go, but if they do one flight a week, she estimates it could be about two years.Anderson hopes that one day she might help inspire others to follow their space ambitions.“I’m happy to share — I hope it helps somebody think they might reach for their dreams,” she said. “School kids and people in regular walks of life, just look up. Keep looking up, keep dreaming, keep learning about yourself, about the world.”During the Tuesday press conference after returning, Bezos held up the goggles Amelia Earhart wore during her pioneering and record-breaking days as a pilot in the first half of the 20th century, which he had brought along for the trip. “If Amelia were here, she’d be very, very proud of Wally,” he said before embracing Funk.Then it was Funk’s turn to tell the audience what it was like: “Woo!” she said, rising from her chair next to Bezos.“I’ve been waiting a long time to finally get it up there and I’ve done a lot of astronaut training through the world — Russia, America — and I could always beat the guys on what they were doing because I was always stronger and I’ve always done everything on my own,” she said.“I loved it.”With files from the Associated PressKieran Leavitt is an Edmonton-based political reporter for the Toronto Star. Follow him on Twitter: @kieranleavitt

This retired professor has a ticket to follow Wally Funk, 82, into space. How the billionaire space race is redefining ‘astronaut’

Wally Funk beamed ear to ear as she strode onto the stage in a blue jumpsuit and thrust her arms skyward in front of a cheering crowd after becoming the oldest person ever to leave the planet.

Earlier that day she’d blasted off on a suborbital flight aboard Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s New Shepard rocket, in a moment that was sixty years in the making. The 82-year-old had completed a program in the early 1960s for female pilots who vied to become astronauts, but never got the chance at space.

As she fulfilled her own dream, she also emerged as a silver-haired icon for earthlings below who realized that, for the first time, dreams of travelling among the stars might not be limited by age or athletic ability.

Among them? Judy Anderson, 69, a retired University of Manitoba science professor and aspiring future space traveller, who has ticket 623 to take off on a Virgin Galactic flight sometime in the future. She loved every bit of Funk’s story, she said.

“Women have been fighting for equal opportunity for way longer than 60 years and finally, somebody gives the gift — that opportunity denied all that time ago for her,” she said.

The past week has seen launches by two aspiring space companies. While the advent of space tourism has been controversial due to the exorbitant costs and lack of regulation, advocates argue it’s already opening up space to demographics not normally seen in the halls of NASA.

As Anderson watched Funk’s flight on Tuesday she marvelled at the female pilot’s achievement, but also that of one of her fellow passengers — Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old Dutchman who simultaneously became the youngest person to go into space.

To put that into context, the blond teen with the wide smile was born about the same time Funk became eligible for old-age benefits.

While Funk went at the invitation of Bezos, Daemen’s price of admission is unknown. He was an eleventh-hour fill in for an as-of-yet unidentified winner of a $28-million charity auction who couldn’t make it.

Anderson called having the youngest and oldest people ever to go to space on the same flight “a marvellous idea.” During their flight Funk, Daemon and the Bezos brothers floated in zero gravity and tossed ping-pong balls to each other.

“Imagine what it’s like if grandma goes up, comes back and is talking to granddaughter or grandson and they are asking questions?” she said.

Kids are going to grow up thinking they can go to space without being a jet-fighter pilot or a super athlete, she adds.

Barriers remain, though. Anderson acknowledges that the cost is unreachable for most people — she has put $20,000 as a down payment toward her $200,000 Virgin Galactic ticket. As a retired professor she doesn’t have the deep pockets of a billionaire but says she’ll basically live off mac and cheese from now on.

She hopes the price for other astronaut hopefuls will come down over time.

Anderson is set to travel with Virgin Galactic, a company founded by Richard Branson and the main rival to Bezos’ company, Blue Origin, in the new billionaire space race.

As she watched the flight Anderson also thought of what she learned in high school physics about velocity and the differences between the Bezos flight and Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson’s just days earlier.

She thought about the feeling she gets on a swing when her stomach drops down to her feet before coming back up.

“Don’t you love being on the swing? When you swing hard and you get up to the top and you’re sort of semi weightless just for a fraction of a second and then you power back down and you’re fast,” she said.

“It’s just so marvellous, just to feel the world.”

It’s not clear how long it will be before Anderson gets to go, but if they do one flight a week, she estimates it could be about two years.

Anderson hopes that one day she might help inspire others to follow their space ambitions.

“I’m happy to share — I hope it helps somebody think they might reach for their dreams,” she said. “School kids and people in regular walks of life, just look up. Keep looking up, keep dreaming, keep learning about yourself, about the world.”

During the Tuesday press conference after returning, Bezos held up the goggles Amelia Earhart wore during her pioneering and record-breaking days as a pilot in the first half of the 20th century, which he had brought along for the trip.

“If Amelia were here, she’d be very, very proud of Wally,” he said before embracing Funk.

Then it was Funk’s turn to tell the audience what it was like: “Woo!” she said, rising from her chair next to Bezos.

“I’ve been waiting a long time to finally get it up there and I’ve done a lot of astronaut training through the world — Russia, America — and I could always beat the guys on what they were doing because I was always stronger and I’ve always done everything on my own,” she said.

“I loved it.”

With files from the Associated Press

Kieran Leavitt is an Edmonton-based political reporter for the Toronto Star. Follow him on Twitter: @kieranleavitt

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Former Texas Neurosurgeon ‘Dr. Death’ Christopher Duntsch Subject Of Documentary, TV Miniseries

A notorious former surgeon who maimed and killed multiple patients in North Texas is in the national spotlight.

Former Texas Neurosurgeon ‘Dr. Death’ Christopher Duntsch Subject Of Documentary, TV Miniseries

DENTON COUNTY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – A notorious former surgeon who maimed and killed multiple patients in North Texas is in the national spotlight.

There is about to be a TV mini series as well as a documentary on Christopher Duntsch,  the man dubbed, “Doctor Death” now serving a life sentence for multiple counts of aggravated assault.

One of his victims who did not die, Ken Fennell is instead spending his golden years in a motorized wheelchair.

“The dreams you had before you realize you can’t do anymore,” Fennell said.

The 78-year-old Denton County man was then Dr. Christopher Duntsch’s first patient when the surgeon started performing spinal fusions in 2011.

“All they could do is brag on himself and that he could fix me where nobody else could,” said Fennel.

But when that surgery didn’t work, Fennell allowed Duntsch to operate again.

“And that’s when he did the damage. I woke up a day and a half later in intensive care and a morphine drip and from the waist down it felt like there was a bonfire burning on me,” he said.

Despite the bad experience, Duntsch bounced around North Texas hospitals paralyzing and in some cases, killing his patients.

He was convicted in 2017 and sentenced to life in prison.

“When they sentenced him to life we realized we’ve got him stopped they stopped him,” Fennell said.

Duntsch is now the subject of an upcoming documentary and a new TV miniseries.

“I’m hoping it will stop other doctors,” said Fennell. “He’s not the only one in the world I’m sure that’s doing this.”

Fennell and his wife are still able to travel occasionally and dress up for Christmas shows as the Clauses, but not without Ken’s constant pain that he says Duntsch isn’t the only one responsible for.

“I blame the medical board for not stopping him before. The reason I will speak out every time is to keep him from hurting someone else,” said Fennell.

Source : CBS Dallas More   

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