Thursday, September 23, 2021

Who’s an astronaut? Not billionaire blast-offs Bezos or Branson, says regulator

With crowds of gawkers heading to space in the future, the FAA has changed the definition of astronaut.

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The American space regulator changed its definition of “astronaut” on the same day Jeff Bezos blasted in his own rocket just past the edge of space last week.

Billionaires Bezos and Richard Branson will now not be officially recognised as astronauts even though they travelled to space.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has just altered the qualifying rules for its Commercial Space Astronaut Wings programme.

Before, they awarded Wings badges to those who commanded, piloted or worked on privately funded spacecraft, USA Today reported.

But from now on, they’ll only award badges to crew members who’ve demonstrated during a flight activities that were essential to public safety or contributed to human space flight safety.

The change was issued on July 20, the same day Bezos and his company Blue Origin launched into space.

As Bezos and three others arrived in space, the FAA redefined what an astronaut is, and Bezos did not quality.

In the past, most people who went to space have been contracted to do so, meaning it’s been easy to identify flight crews as astronauts.

However, with hundreds of civilians booking seats on flights into space in the near future, it makes sense that the FAA has made this change.

Blue Origin launched last week carrying Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and a last-minute addition named Oliver Daemen.

The flight was completely autonomous with every adjustment made by the craft’s computers.

Unfortunately for Bezos, that one little detail means everything. The new rule means that a crew has to fly into space and actually do something meaningful to contribute to the flight itself.

An autonomous flight earns no-one aboard any Wings.

So who gets their Wings in future?

Space travellers aboard need to actually be a crew as defined by the FAA, and each person needs to perform useful and essential in-flight activities.

Basically, this means you have to have something to do when on the craft aside from just marvelling out of the window at the Earth’s curvature.

Making small adjustments to the rocket’s trajectory or speed could possibly have been considered an “activity essential to human space flight safety”.

Unfortunately for Bezos and his “crew” the rocket itself did everything needed in that respect this time.

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