Rare FAA rules change means Blue Origin crew may not get official 'wings'


UPI News 23 July, 2021 - 07:27am 37 views

US government to space tourists: You’re not astronauts

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Shed a tear for passengers on Jeff Bezos‘ joyrides to space: their trips may not make them official astronauts.

The tragic ruling comes courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the US.

In a new order, the transportation agency listed two ways to qualify for FAA Commercial Space Astronaut Wings:

Here’s how your business can benefit from free citizen data

The hazy definition suggests Bezos and Richard Branson could still get wings for spearheading commercial space flight. But other travelers on their rockets — like Elon Musk — may not be so lucky.

That sounds fair to me. Super-rich passengers who have merely bought a ticket don’t deserve the same title as professionals who dedicate their lives to space exploration.

A more fitting title may be “cashstronauts,” as TNW’s Tristan Greene calls them.

— dumpsterdawg (@dumpsterdawg2) July 21, 2021

Some of them, however, may merit the honor, such as Wally Funk, a pioneering aviator who joined Bezos on his ego trip.

The 82-year-old had spent six decades trying to reach space. But she still sounded unimpressed by her maiden voyage:

We went right on up and I saw darkness. I thought I was going to see the world, but we weren’t quite high enough.

Funk was also disappointed that she couldn’t do “more rolls and twists and so forth,” as “there was not quite enough room for all four of us to do all those things.”

If passengers on Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic vehicles aren’t deemed astronauts by the US government, it will be a blow to the egos of Branson and Bezos.

The outcome would be particularly galling for Bezos, whose rocket firm has mocked the credibility of its rival’s trips.

Blue Origin suggested passengers on Virgin Galactic’s Unity will forever have asterisks alongside their names as they wouldn’t pass the “internationally recognized” altitude where space begins.

It looks as though Blue Origin customers will have an asterisk of their own.

TNW is a Financial Times company.

In Case You Missed Jeff Bezos’ Hysterical Dr. Evil Moment [Video]

2oceansvibe News 23 July, 2021 - 12:00pm

Jeff Bezos must have known that blasting into space in a phallic-shaped rocket would inspire thousands of jokes and memes.

Yet he still went ahead and wore a cowboy hat?

I just Googled his age, and he’s 57, which is too late for a midlife crisis, but he’s giving it a good shot.

Anyway, we have covered the memes and jokes here, but one or two did slip through the net.

The comparisons with Dr, Evil are obvious, but once he let out this laugh it was game over:

It’s official, Bezos is indeed Dr Evil 🤣 pic.twitter.com/PjULe4EAnF

— ⚡️Tesla Owners Online (@Model3Owners) July 21, 2021

One that we already covered yesterday, just to drive home the point:

Quite the liftoff. pic.twitter.com/6JzR1Rfu9Z

— Matt Mullin (@matt_mullin) July 20, 2021

By the way, if you’ve ever bought anything from Amazon, or worked for the company, Bezos wants to thank you:

“I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this.” pic.twitter.com/uM99zMaWYt

— Eoin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) July 20, 2021

I’m sure those employees paid minimum wage to work for Amazon, who pee into bottles in order to hit their targets, are happy to have made the sacrifice.

They may take solace in the fact that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has now tightened its rules for how it awards astronaut wings to those riding on private space flights.

This via New Scientist:

For the FAA to award wings, an astronaut must be employed by the company performing the launch – so tourists that have bought tickets are out. They must also go through training to be certified by the FAA as an astronaut and fly higher than 80 kilometres.

And they must have “demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety,” according to the new order providing the guidelines.

…the [Blue Origin] spacecraft was entirely controlled from the ground, not by Jeff Bezos or any of the other three passengers, so all they had to do was enjoy the ride. That means that they would not qualify for astronaut wings under the FAA’s new rules.

Sadly, that would also mean that Wally Funk, a person more deserving of the title ‘astronaut’ than almost any other, wouldn’t qualify, either.

The agency is allowed to give honorary wings to “individuals who demonstrated extraordinary contribution or beneficial service to the commercial human space flight industry” but who did not satisfy the other eligibility requirements.

So Wally Funk, a passenger aboard the flight who trained to be an astronaut in the 1960s but did not get to go to space back then, may still get her astronaut wings.


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FAA changes policy on who qualifies for commercial Astronaut Wings for flying to space on same day as Blue Origin spaceflight

msnNOW 23 July, 2021 - 12:00pm

Even though Jeff Bezos crossed into space on Tuesday, he still may not get his official astronaut wings from the federal government.

On the same day as Blue Origin's first human spaceflight, the Federal Aviation Administration announced a change to its Commercial Astronaut Wings Program for the first time in 17 years. This shift at the dawn of the space tourism era means the US government may not formally recognize that billionaires Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson became astronauts when they blasted into space earlier this month.

Before the FAA issued the new restrictions, Bezos, along with three other crewmates who flew with the Blue Origin founder, would have qualified to receive FAA commercial astronaut wings. That's because the travelers flew to an altitude of at least 50 miles (80.5 kilometers), the US-recognized boundary of space.

That was true until a few days ago.

Effective July 20, the FAA issued one more critical criterion: Commercial launch crew members must also demonstrate "activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety," an FAA spokesperson said, quoting the new order.

Astronaut wings were first awarded in the early 1960s to the Mercury 7 astronauts Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Virgil "Gus" Grissom by the US Navy and the US Air Force, respectively. It became a rite of passage for all NASA astronauts, from the Apollo missions to the Space Shuttle progam. The FAA created the Commercial Astronaut Wings Program in 2004 after Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipOne became the first private spacecraft to reach space.

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David Mackay and Mike Masucci, the two pilots for Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo flight on July 11, had already received their astronaut wings. So had one of the mission specialists, Beth Moses, on a previous test flight. But the three other mission specialists, including Branson, were first-time fliers and were on board to either evaluate the astronaut experience or conduct suborbital scientific research. Neither activity would explicitly qualify them to receive their wings under the FAA's new order.

The four crew members on board Blue Origin's first crewed flight did even less during their 10-minute-long suborbital flight. The company's CEO, Bob Smith, explained during a prelaunch mission briefing that the New Shepard spacecraft "is an autonomous vehicle. There's really nothing for a crew member to go do."

A spokesperson for the FAA said the shift was made because it "aligns more directly to the FAA's role to protect public safety during commercial space operations." The FAA did not respond to an inquiry about why the change took effect on the same day as the Blue Origin flight.

When asked what the change in policy means for the most recent space tourists, an FAA spokesperson said that, in order to get astronaut wings, a nomination is required.

"There are no nominations currently before the FAA to review," the spokesperson said.

There is one caveat in the new regulations that may still allow Branson, Bezos and some of their crewmates a chance to become formally recognized by the FAA as astronauts. The new order allows the agency to issue an honorary award to "individuals whose contribution to commercial human space flight merits special recognition." It's up to the sole discretion of FAA's associate administrator for commercial space transportation to determine who qualifies for the "honorary" astronaut wings.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment about whether or not they plan to nominate any of their recent crew members, including Bezos and Branson, for the program.

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America reduces space tourists to astro-noughts

The Times 23 July, 2021 - 11:00am

Passengers on Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos’s suborbital thrill rides will not earn official status as astronauts solely for going to space, after the US government changed the rules to protect the kudos of the title.

The Federal Aviation Administration revised its criteria for awarding its prestigious Commercial Space Astronaut Wings on the day Bezos and three others flew into space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and nine days after Sir Richard Branson went there and back on his Virgin Galactic rocketplane.

The change leaves open a loophole that could allow Branson, Bezos and their crewmates to still qualify, but could block their future customers, including research scientists, from earning the honour.

“In order to maintain the prestige of Commercial Space Astronaut Wings,

Jeff Bezos may not get his astronaut wings – even though Richard Branson did

The Sun 23 July, 2021 - 05:44am

News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) amended its Commercial Astronaut Wings Program on July 20 - the same day that Bezos blasted himself into space on Blue Origin's maiden flight.

The agency states: “Commerical launch crew members must also demonstrate activities during a flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety.”

Before the guidance was issued, Bezos and his crewmates would’ve gained their astronaut wings, CNN reports.

This is because they flew to an altitude of at least 50 miles which is the recognized boundary of space.

A spokesperson for the FAA told the news outlet that the ruling was amended because it "aligns more directly to the FAA's role to protect public safety during commercial space operations".

Sir Richard Branson gained his astronaut wings after reaching an altitude of 90km as he made history to become the first billionaire in space on July 11.

The Brit described the Virgin Galactic flight as the "experience of a lifetime".

But, the FAA’s policy amendment means it’s possible that he wouldn’t have qualified for his space wings.

The agency said a space tourist must be nominated if they want to gain their "astronaut wings".

The spokesperson told CNN: “There are no nominations currently before the FAA to review.”

But, Bezos and his crewmates could be presented with an honorary award.

This is issued to “individuals whose contribution to commercial human space flight merits special recognition”, according to the ruling.

The FAA’s associate administrator for commercial space transportation decides who should receive their “honorary” astronaut wings.

Bezos made history as he blasted himself into space but one of the crew members onboard gave the flight just two stars.

Wally Funk, 82, who became the oldest person to fly in space, claimed the capsule didn't go high enough.

Wally traveled on the flight alongside Bezos, 57, his younger brother Mark, 53, and teenager Oliver Daemen in what the Amazon CEO described as the “best day ever.”  

In a post-flight interview with Fox, she spoke of her immense disappointment after she claimed that she failed to see the Earth onboard the Blue Origin Capsule.  

She said: "We went right on up and I saw darkness. I thought I was going to see the world, but we weren’t quite high enough."

Wally admitted that she would've loved the opportunity to spend more time doing "rolls and twists" as the passengers experienced around four minutes of free fall.

Her comments came as Bezos faced a number of criticisms about the use of money on the Blue Origin flight capsule.

Some compared the shape of the rocket to a penis and the billionaire was mocked for wearing a cowboy hat.

The flight cost a total of $5.5 billion and Bezos has been forced to defend the program as he said such critics are “largely right”, but denied that space travel and improvements at home are in conflict.

Amazon customers and workers fumed after the mogul said “you paid for this” after the flight.

He said: "I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this.

"So seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every Amazon employee thank you from the bottom of my heart very it's very appreciated."

Former Harvard scientist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding said: "(Narrator whispers)… paid with underpaid labor in sweatshop conditions all while you didn’t pay much taxes."

Bezos' mission came nine days after Branson launched his own flight from New Mexico on July 11.

Blue Origin reached an altitude of about 66 miles, more than 10 miles higher than Branson’s July 11 ride.

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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Jeff Bezos not an astronaut, according to new policy issued by US aviation body

The Independent 23 July, 2021 - 01:54am

FAA’s new rule tightens regulations on who qualifies for its official astronaut wings

The aviation authority’s new rules tighten regulations on who qualifies for its official astronaut wings, making it eligible only for crew members on licensed spacecrafts who contribute to flight safety and rise above the 50-mile (80km) altitude mark.

According to the FAA’s revised rules, commercial launch crew members must also demonstrate “activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety,” and not simply be passengers to be eligible for the official astronaut wings.

The wings do not carry legal significance or privileges, but are seen as a rite of passage for astronauts. The FAA created the rules in order to promote and encourage commercial space transportation, in addition to overseeing its safety.

With private space ventures such as Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic making advances in space tourism, the revised rules restrict who are eligible for astronaut wings.

It also raises questions on whether commercial space tourism passengers, who are not involved in the flight operations or any science missions during the travel, have earned the eligibility to be called astronauts.

In Tuesday’s launch, Blue Origin’s New Shepard flight carried four people – Bezos, his brother Mark, Wally Funk, and Oliver Diemen.

The flight was controlled from the ground, and none of them had any role in operating the spacecraft, so they may likely not meet the FAA criteria for commercial astronaut wings.

“This is an autonomous vehicle. There’s really nothing for a crew member to go do,” Blue Origin Chief Executive Bob Smith said at a media briefing before the launch.

However, the new order also notes that individuals who demonstrate “extraordinary contribution or beneficial service to the commercial human space flight industry” merit special recognition.

“These individuals receiving an honorary award may not be required to satisfy all eligibility requirements,” FAA noted in the revised rules.

This means Funk, a passenger on the Blue Origin flight, who trained to be a Nasa astronaut in the 1960s but did not get to go to space then, may still get her astronaut wings.

In the case of Virgin Galactic, however, it is less clear if the passengers are eligible for astronaut wings. The company designated founder Branson and the other three passengers as crew members testing the spacecraft.

According to the company, the four passengers were either assessing cabin hardware or conducting experiment related to suborbital flight, but their eligibility seems to be dependent on whether this “contributed to human space flight safety.”

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