Neither Richard Branson nor Jeff Bezos Qualifies as an Astronaut Yet
The new guidelines of the FAA have squashed their claims
A recent Blue Origin spaceflight made Jeff Bezos the 2nd billionaire to fly to space after Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic flight. With that, Blue Origin claimed that the entire crew alongside Jeff Bezos were “astronauts”.
But according to the official guidelines issued by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), neither Richard Branson nor Bezos can be considered astronauts.
Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are not astronauts
Earlier when Richard Branson took the first flight in the Virgin Galactic spaceship, Blue Origin suggested that the Virgin Galactic passengers were not “astronauts” due to their flight plan.
Regarding this, the company tweeted on their official Twitter account, “New Shepard was designed to fly above the Kármán line so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name.”
Based on the Commercial Space Astronaut Wings Program regulations by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), both Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos do not fulfil the requirements of being astronauts yet.
Indeed, Jeff Bezos flew 80 kilometres above the surface of the Earth, hence fulfilling a major requirement of the program. However, the spaceship was fully autonomous. Hence, there was no active pilot, and no duties were performed throughout the flight.
The same applies to Richard Branson, who alongside his crew did not reach a height of 100 km, where the so-called “Kármán line” is situated.
Hence, on either of the flights, nobody on-board including Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos has received the United States Astronaut Badge in line with the standards set by FAA.
For now, the winged badges that were seen on Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos were custom-made by the companies. Though, it is still likely that in the future, either of these billionaires might receive the “astronaut” tag and their corresponding badges.
Overall, the winged Astronaut badges hold great honour. The first astronauts to wear these badges were Virgil Grissom and Alan Shepard Jr, who participating in the Mercury Seven program in the 1960s.
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