Who counts as an astronaut? Not Jeff Bezos, say new US rules


Individuals who take industrial flights to house typically received’t qualify for astronaut wings

Joe Raedle/Getty Photographs

House tourism is ramping up with the latest flights to house of billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos aboard their respective corporations’ spacecrafts, however not each one that goes to house is formally thought of an astronaut. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has tightened its guidelines for the way it awards astronaut wings to these driving on personal house flights, making it tougher to develop into an official industrial astronaut.

What are FAA astronaut wings?
Within the US, there are three companies that designate folks as astronauts: the US navy, NASA, and the FAA. The previous two solely give wings to their very own workers, so the one strategy to be formally acknowledged as an astronaut after a flight on a industrial spacecraft is to be awarded wings from the FAA. They don’t include any specific privileges past bragging rights.

What are the principles to be licensed as a industrial astronaut now?
For the FAA to award wings, an astronaut have to be employed by the corporate performing the launch – so vacationers which have purchased tickets are out. They have to additionally undergo coaching to be licensed by the FAA as an astronaut and fly greater than 80 kilometres. They usually should have “demonstrated actions throughout flight that had been important to public security, or contributed to human house flight security,” in response to the brand new order offering the rules.

What counts as a contribution?
Whether or not a crew member has made a contribution to house flight security is as much as the discretion of FAA officers. Over the past decade, the company has awarded astronaut wings solely to the pilots of spacecraft – the one exception was Beth Moses, a Virgin Galactic government who flew aboard the corporate’s SpaceShipTwo craft in 2019. The primary standards appears to be that the astronauts have to be designated as crew members performing some job aboard their flights, not merely passengers.

So will the passengers on the latest Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin flights be thought of astronauts?
That’s a bit sophisticated. Virgin Galactic designated Richard Branson and the opposite three passengers on his 11 July flight as crew members testing the spacecraft, nevertheless it’s not clear whether or not they “contributed to human house flight security” on the whole.

Issues are extra clear-cut within the case of the 20 July Blue Origin flight: the spacecraft was solely managed from the bottom, not by Jeff Bezos or any of the opposite three passengers, so all they needed to do was benefit from the experience. That implies that they’d not qualify for astronaut wings beneath the FAA’s new guidelines.

Are there any exceptions? 
The company is allowed to offer honorary wings to “people who demonstrated extraordinary contribution or helpful service to the industrial human house flight trade” however who didn’t fulfill the opposite eligibility necessities. So Wally Funk, a passenger aboard the flight who educated to be an astronaut within the 1960s however didn’t get to go to house again then, should still get her astronaut wings.

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