FAA publishes updated guidelines about being ‘astronaut’

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Tuesday published updated guidelines, eligibility, and criteria for the Commercial Space Astronaut Wings program, tightening its definition of the word ‘astronaut’. The changes have made it harder for people like Bezos and Branson to be called commercial astronauts.

Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson went to space in their private suborbital flights earlier this month. Many people called them commercial astronauts, but the US FAA published the updated guidelines saying space explorers must go through the required training to be certified as an astronaut and fly beyond 80 kilometres above the Earth surface as a flight crew on a permitted launch or reentry vehicle.

The FAA is the only US agency that awards astronaut wings to passengers on a commercial spacecraft since the Nasa and US military recognises only their employees as astronauts.

According to the updated provision, space tourists also must have ‘demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety’ for being certified as astronauts.

The same day Amazon CEO Bezos along with three other crew members blasted off his Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket-and-capsule combo and touched down after about 10 minutes of flight, the updated guidelines were published. As reported, new Shepard was a fully autonomous spacecraft and didn’t have any Blue Origin staff onboard during its maiden human spaceflight.

The newly updated guidelines are considered to prevent Bezos and his team from being qualified as astronauts as the flight was completely computer-controlled from Earth and they didn’t contribute to human space flight safety during the flight.

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Likewise, it is also not clear whether Branson and other passengers on SpaceShipTwo ‘contributed to human space flight safety’ or not.

Even if the new guidelines do not go in favour of the billionaires’ for being recognised as astronauts, the space competitors could, as mentioned in reports, still be awarded honorary astronauts wings if the FAA believes their contribution to commercial human spaceflight ‘merits special recognition’.

Source: Agencies

  • July 24, 2021
Universe & Existence