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

3 months ago 22
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By Leah Crane

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People who instrumentality commercialized flights to abstraction mostly won’t suffice for astronaut wings

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Space tourism is ramping up with the caller flights to abstraction of billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos aboard their respective companies’ spacecrafts, but not each idiosyncratic who goes to abstraction is officially considered an astronaut. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has tightened its rules for however it awards astronaut wings to those riding connected backstage abstraction flights, making it harder to go an authoritative commercialized astronaut.

What are FAA astronaut wings?
In the US, determination are 3 agencies that designate radical arsenic astronauts: the US military, NASA and the FAA. The archetypal 2 lone springiness wings to their ain employees, truthful the lone mode to beryllium officially recognised arsenic an astronaut aft a formation connected a commercialized spacecraft is to beryllium awarded wings from the FAA. They don’t travel with immoderate peculiar privileges beyond bragging rights.

What are the rules to beryllium certified arsenic a commercialized astronaut now?
For the FAA to grant wings, an astronaut indispensable beryllium employed by the institution performing the motorboat – truthful tourists that person bought tickets are out. They indispensable besides spell done grooming to beryllium certified by the FAA arsenic an astronaut and alert higher than 80 kilometres. And they indispensable person “demonstrated activities during formation that were indispensable to nationalist safety, oregon contributed to quality abstraction formation safety”, according to the caller bid providing the guidelines.

What counts arsenic a contribution?
Whether a unit subordinate has made a publication to abstraction formation information is up to the discretion of FAA officials. Over the past decade, the bureau has awarded astronaut wings lone to the pilots of spacecraft – the 1 objection was Beth Moses, a Virgin Galactic enforcement who flew aboard the company’s SpaceShipTwo trade successful 2019. The main criteria seems to beryllium that the astronauts indispensable beryllium designated arsenic unit members performing immoderate task aboard their flights, not simply passengers.

So volition the passengers connected the caller Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin flights beryllium considered astronauts?
That’s a spot complicated. Virgin Galactic designated Branson and the different 3 passengers connected his 11 July formation arsenic unit members investigating the spacecraft, but it’s not wide whether they “contributed to quality abstraction formation safety” successful general.

Things are much clear-cut successful the lawsuit of the 20 July Blue Origin flight: the spacecraft was wholly controlled from the ground, not by Bezos oregon immoderate of the different 3 passengers, truthful each they had to bash was bask the ride. That means that they wouldn’t suffice for astronaut wings nether the FAA’s caller rules.

Are determination immoderate exceptions? 
The bureau is allowed to springiness honorary wings to “individuals who demonstrated bonzer publication oregon beneficial work to the commercialized quality abstraction formation industry”, but who didn’t fulfill the different eligibility requirements. So Wally Funk, a rider aboard the formation who trained to beryllium an astronaut successful the 1960s but didn’t get to spell to abstraction backmost then, whitethorn inactive get her astronaut wings.

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