Jeff Bezos And Richard Branson’s Trips To Space Doesn’t Make Them Astronauts, US Says
Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson have been to space, but the US isn’t convinced they’re actually astronauts.
The multi-billionaires both took trips to the edge of space recently, with Branson taking a trip on his Virgin Galactic Unity 22 aircraft to 53 miles above sea level – nine miles below the recognised limit of space, known as the Kármán line. On the other hand, Bezos’s New Shepherd rocket with Blue Origin ascended to 62 miles high.
However, this isn’t the only qualifying factor in becoming a fully-fledged astronaut, as many wannabe space tourists may have hoped.
According to new guidelines published by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – specifically pertaining to its Commercial Space Astronaut Wings Program, accounting for privately-owned and commanded aircraft – neither Branson nor Bezos are actually astronauts yet.
Bezos travelled above the boundary, but neither of the tycoons’ flights ‘demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety’.
‘In order to maintain the prestige of Commercial Space Astronaut Wings, the FAA may further refine the eligibility requirements at any time as it deems appropriate,’ the rules state, with the FAA deciding which activities are deemed ‘essential’ enough to earn the distinction of astronaut.
Bezos’s flight was autonomous, meaning their actions didn’t contribute to human space flight safety – in the simplest terms, they were just there for the ride. ‘There’s really nothing for a crew member to go do,’ Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith earlier said.
Branson’s voyage aboard his Virgin Galactic was similar, though the two pilots flying with him would still qualify under the new guidelines.
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CreditsFederal Aviation Administration
Federal Aviation Administration