The flight, Tuesday, with a New Shepard rocket from Bezos’ Blue Origin space company, no one takes them anymore. But the hoped-for sequel, official recognition as an astronaut, still fell into the water. The FAA appears to have tightened rules for astronauts quickly on Tuesday, launch day.
In America, you can have your “wings” from three parties: the military, NASA or the Federal Aviation Administration. Since the first two parties only distribute the wings to their employees, the private space tourist has to rely on the FAA to identify the astronauts.
Where the organization until recently only required flight training and a flight to an altitude of more than 80 kilometers (Blue Origin passengers met both conditions), an additional requirement has been added since Tuesday. It added that astronauts should perform “provable activities on board that are necessary to public safety or contribute to the safety of manned space flights.” New instructions الإرشاد.
Whether that really is the case, in the case of the Blue Origin flight, is up to the FAA itself. But since passengers aboard New Shephard had no flying duties – the 10-minute flight was fully automated – the Bezos brothers and Dutchman Olivier Daemen were expected to miss on their FAA wings.
It remains unclear if the fourth passenger, Wally Funk, can also write her wings on the proverbial belly. The FAA may also award honorary wings to “individuals who have made outstanding contributions to commercial human spaceflight,” under the same guidelines. Since Funk has a résumé spanning decades that includes astronaut training and experience as a pilot and as a pilot instructor, the organization will likely make an exception for her.
Given the public vote for Bezos, who stated in no uncertain terms after his flight that Amazon employees paid for his flight, it seems unlikely that the FAA would do something similar to him.
Contender Richard Branson departed with his previous Virgin Galactic flight before the new guidelines came into effect, although they may also apply retroactively. But until then, Virgin Galactic passengers can get their wings. Unlike Blue Origin, the company officially registered its passengers as “crew members” and also officially assigned them some initial security duties during the flight. It remains to be seen if this is actually enough for the FAA.
By the way, even Blue Origin passengers do not have to do without wings at all. The company also arranged its own symbolic wings. You won’t feel quite the same.
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