In a move that will prevent billionaire space explorers from becoming real astronauts, the authorities in the United States have placed new restrictions on the definition of the profession of “astronaut”.
The new rules of the Federal Aviation Authority in the United States stipulate that the astronaut is the person who plays a role within the framework of the crew of the flight into space and contributes to achieving safety and security during the flight.
And these new additions made this definition not apply to Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson from the point of view of the US administration.
These changes are the first to be made to the Wings program to award the FAA astronaut title and badge, which began in 2004.
These changes to the rules of the “Wings Commercial Astronaut Program” were announced last Tuesday, coinciding with the launch of a rocket into space by Jeff Bezos, the famous billionaire and founder of Amazon, as part of the work of his space company, Blue Origin.
The administration requires that a commercial astronaut or space traveler fly 80 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, which Bezos and Branson have already achieved.
But regardless of flight altitude, the new aviation rules say prospective astronauts must have a record that includes “necessary activities related to the general safety and security in flight, or activities that contributed to the safety and security of a passenger flight into space”.
It is up to the Federal Authority to determine those activities that are provided for by the new amendments in the rules.
The aviation authority said changes to the Wings program for commercial astronauts made the program more consistent with its role of protecting public safety during commercial space flights.
On July 11, Richard Branson traveled to space aboard his company’s Virgin Galactic 2 spaceship as part of a test flight in preparation for customers’ travel to space next year.
As for Bezos and the three crew members who accompanied him on the trip to space on the ship owned by his companies, Blue Origin, it seems that they do not strongly demand the title of “astronaut” and the insignia for it. Just before takeoff, Blue Origin director Bob Smith said that “passengers will not do anything on board this self-driving vehicle.”
Those desiring the title and badge of a commercial astronaut must also be nominated by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the rules that saw the new amendments. But an administration spokesperson told CNN that the administration is not reviewing any applications that have been made at this time.
There are two other ways to obtain the title of astronaut and the distinctive badge for this role, and they are through the US Army or the US Space Science Agency (NASA).
The wings insignia that appeared in the pictures on the clothes of Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson during their trips to space had been specially made for them by their employer and not given to them by any official body.
Nevertheless, there is still a glimmer of hope for Branson, Bezos and others who dream of becoming an astronaut. The new rules include the possibility of awarding honorary titles based on how much people deserve them in the sector, which will happen at the discretion of the assistant director of the FAA.
The first wings badge awarded to astronauts was in the 1960s, awarded to astronauts Alan Shepard JR and Virgin Grissom for their participation in the Mercury 7 space programme.
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