Shed a tear for passengers on Jeff Bezos‘ joyrides to space: their trips may not make them official astronauts.
The tragic ruling comes courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the US.
In a new order, the transportation agency listed two ways to qualify for FAA Commercial Space Astronaut Wings:
- You have the appropriate flight crew qualifications and training, have flown beyond 50 miles above Earth on a licensed launch, and have demonstrated activities during the flight that was either essential to public safety or contributed to human space flight safety.
- Your “contribution to commercial human space flight merits special recognition.”
The hazy definition suggests Bezos and Richard Branson could still get wings for spearheading commercial space flight. But other travelers on their rockets — like Elon Musk — may not be so lucky.
That sounds fair to me. Super-rich passengers who have merely bought a ticket don’t deserve the same title as professionals who dedicate their lives to space exploration.
However, some of them may merit the honor, such as Wally Funk, a pioneering aviator who joined Bezos on his ego trip.
If passengers on Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic vehicles aren’t deemed astronauts by the US government, it will be a blow to the egos of Branson and Bezos.
The outcome would be particularly galling for Bezos, whose rocket firm has mocked the credibility of its rival’s trips.
Blue Origin suggested passengers on Virgin Galactic’s Unity will forever have asterisks alongside their names as they wouldn’t pass the “internationally recognized” altitude where space begins.