DALLAS, Texas (NewsNation Now) — The Federal Aviation Administration is tightening its definition of the word “astronaut,” which has many people questioning if Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson may not yet qualify despite their recent launches.
There’s been no concrete answer yet, but the newly updated guidelines from the FAA makes it seem like both men would fall short of reaching that criteria.
Before the FAA issued the new restrictions, Bezos and his three crewmates who flew with his company Blue Origin would have qualified to receive FAA commercial astronaut wings. That’s because the travelers flew an altitude of at least 50 miles, the U.S.-recognized boundary of space.
But, effective July 20, the same day Bezos launched, commercial launch crew members must also demonstrate “activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety,” an FAA spokesperson said, quoting the new order.
While both men inagrugalby helped usher in this new age of space tourism, it may be hard to argue they demonstrated anything essential in-flight activity for public safety.
People also have to be nominated to receive commercial wings, and the only two other ways to earn them are through the military or NASA.
While both Bezos and Branson and their crews received astronaut wings upon their return from space, the pins were custom-made and designed by their own companies.
There is a glimmer of hope for Bezos and Branson as the new update notes that honorary wings can be awarded based on merits from the FAA administrator.
The FAA opened a field in Houston specifically to keep tabs on Bezos’ and Branson’s companies in Texas and New Mexico.
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