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Astronaut? Not So Fast, FAA Tells Bezos

Rule may exclude billionaire from high-flying club
By Josh Gardner,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2021 8:51 AM CDT
Astronauts? Not So Fast, FAA Tells Bezos
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

(Newser) – Jeff Bezos may have reached outer space, but the billionaire may never get to be officially dubbed an astronaut. Per BBC, the FAA announced its Commercial Astronaut Wings program the same day Bezos boarded his Blue Origin spaceship trained on the outer reaches of Earth's atmosphere. But rather than being about altitude, the FAA says its wings will only be awarded to those whose "activities during flight... were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety." What that means, exactly, would be up to the discretion of the FAA.

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According to Observer.com, however, it's likely that no one aboard New Shepard would qualify because it's an autonomous vehicle. By that same logic, Virgin billionaire Richard Branson wouldn't qualify for his trip to space days earlier, nor would anyone on his space trip save for the pilots. Lucky for him, they all received their wings days prior to the FAA's announcement. The rule change marked the first since 2004. Per CNN, the agency said it updated its rules "to protect public safety during commercial space operations." (Read more Blue Origin stories.)

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