Wally Funk’s Race for Space

Wally Funk’s Race for Space

The Extraordinary Story of a Female Aviation Pioneer

9781908906380 June 2019 Hardback 272pp

About the Book



In 1961, Wally Funk was the youngest of thirteen American female pilots in the Woman in Space programme. Her mission was to become one of the first women astronauts. But a combination of politics and prejudice meant the programme was abruptly cancelled. Neither Wally nor the other pilots ever made it into space.


Now approaching eighty, Wally is joined by fellow space enthusiast Sue Nelson as she races to make her giant leap before it’s too late. They travel across the United States and Europe – taking in NASA’s mission control in Houston and Spaceport America in New Mexico, where Wally’s ride into space awaits – meeting with female astronauts and trailblazers along the way. Touching on the Space Race and women’s achievements in aviation, this is the remarkable story of a courageous pioneer who could have been the first woman in space.

About the Author

Sue Nelson is an award-winning science journalist, producer and broadcaster. A former BBC TV science correspondent and Radio 4 presenter, Sue makes short films on space missions for the European Space Agency and co-presents the Space Boffins podcast, whose guests have included astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Eileen Collins, Tim Peake and Helen Sharman. Sue’s extensive broadcasting career has taken her from rocket launches in South America to driving a lunar buggy in London alongside Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon. Her 2016 documentary ‘Women with the Right Stuff’, on the history of women in space, won a New York Festival International Radio Program Award.


‘An extraordinary, quirky book … A global Thelma and Louise-style adventure … It’s a great story, and it throws fascinating light on the story of female space travel.’
Daily Mail Book of the Week

‘Fascinating story ... Wally Funk's character leaps off the page ... she is fantastic and so inspirational. ... if you want to see someone with spunk and determination, that is the book to read.’
Naga Munchetty, BBC Breakfast

'[This] is not only the story of a historic space mission that never happened, but a story of frustration, friendship and feminism. … After the success of Hidden Figures, Wally Funk’s Race for Space feels immensely important and timely – like the world is finally waking up to women’s contributions to science and engineering.'
Physics World

‘Fascinating and poignant … puts the story of women in space front and centre.’
Dallas Campbell, author of Ad Astra

‘A wonderful, vivid portrait of Wally Funk that explores the crucial part women have played in space exploration.’
Libby Jackson, author of A Galaxy of Her Own

‘Inspiring ... I am in great admiration of Wally Funk who showed tremendous courage and determination at a time when the world of space flight was dominated by men.’
Jan Wörner, Director General of the European Space Agency

‘Wally’s character shines through; not least her unfailing optimism. ... it’s sobering to have a reminder of the astronauts who might have been.'
New Statesman