New FAA rules suggest Bezos isn’t an astronaut, despite spaceflight
WASHINGTON - It may had been a giant leap for commercial space flights, but not big enough for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to add another title to his resume.
Despite his trip into space last week, he may not be considered an astronaut after the Federal Aviation Administration released new guidelines for the Commercial Space Astronaut Wings Program on the same day he took his trip.
The billionaire met some of the criteria, but it’s not clear yet if he met them all.
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Under the order, a person can receive their astronaut wings after demonstrating flight beyond 50 statute miles above the surface of the Earth. Bezos traveled more than 60 miles.
However, would-be astronauts must also participate in activities during flight that are "essential to public safety" or contribute to "human space flight safety." Additionally, the astronaut must meet requirements for flight crew and training under federal regulations.
Bezos’ rocket, Blue Origin’s New Shepard, was automated and required no official staff on board for the up-and-down flight.
During the July 20 flight, Blue Origin’s capsule reached an altitude of about 66 miles. The 60-foot booster accelerated to Mach 3 or three times the speed of sound to get the capsule high enough, before separating and landing upright.
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"The FAA has now changed the focus to recognize flight crew who demonstrate activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety, among other criteria," the agency said in a statement to FOX Television Stations. "This change aligns more directly to the FAA’s role to protect public safety during commercial space operations."
Bezos’ rival, Richard Branson, might be considered an astronaut, according to FOX News. The 71-year-old Branson and five crewmates from his Virgin Galactic space-tourism company reached an altitude of 53.5 miles (86 kilometers) over a New Mexico desert on July 11 — enough to experience three to four minutes of weightlessness and witness the curvature of the Earth — and then glided back home to a runway landing.
The news outlet said Branson, who flew on his rocket SpaceShipTwo, might still qualify since he was ostensibly testing the cabin experience of his rocket while two pilots guided the vessel. Branson also earned his license to fly before shooting into space, according to the outlet.
Both Bezos and Branson could still be given honorary titles for their flights given the new FAA guidelines.
FAA officials would not confirm if either man submitted applications to be called an astronaut. FOX Television Stations have reached out to Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic for comments.
FOX News and the Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.