Jeff Bezos flew into space last Tuesday, but he can’t officially call himself an astronaut. On the day of Bezos’ spaceflight, the rules for this official recognition were tightened.
It is the US space agency NASA and the US aviation authorities’ office, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who each determine who can officially call themselves an astronaut. NASA’s rules for this are very strict. Anyone who has completed formal astronaut training there and completed at least 1,000 flight hours will receive “Wings”: an official astronaut’s pin in recognition of the special status of space.
Until recently, the FAA’s rules were more flexible: Anyone who had completed flight training and had been in the air for at least 80 kilometers — the limit at which space begins according to the FAA — could live as an astronaut. But last Tuesday The FAA changed the rules. Those who go into space can only call themselves an astronaut if measures were performed during the flight that “were necessary to public safety, or contributed to the safety of human spaceflight.” Bezos did not comply, the entire space flight of the former Amazon chief and three other passengers was controlled from a flight center on Earth.
It’s not entirely clear whether Richard Branson, Bezos’ rival in space, will be able to live his life as an officially astronaut. The British billionaire flew into space on Sunday, July 11, and conducted, as he put it, research on “cabin conditions, seating comfort, weightlessness, and a view of the Earth.”
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