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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his fellow Blue Origin space travelers might not qualify to receive Federal Aviation Administration-awarded astronaut wings for their Tuesday flight.
The agency’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation changed its eligibility rules for its Commercial Space Astronaut Wings Program on Tuesday, the same day the four passengers launched in the New Shepard, to require that recipients perform some activity related to public or human flight safety during the flight.
Along with meeting basic requirements under FAA regulation to be qualified as a flight crew, a candidate must fly beyond 50 miles above the surface of the Earth and into space, which the Blue Origin did by reaching 62 miles.
However, crewmembers must have “demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety,” according to the rule.
The rules read:
1. Meet the requirements for flight crew qualifications and training under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 460.
2. Demonstrated flight beyond 50 statute miles above the surface of the Earth as flight crew on an FAA/AST licensed or permitted launch or reentry vehicle.
3. Demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety.
The New Shepard was fully autonomous and operated from Earth, limiting the crew’s input while on board the ship to “nothing.”
“There's really nothing for a crew member to go do,” said Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith ahead of the launch.
Even if the four passengers are ineligible for wings, they may still be given honorary awards under the program but must be nominated by someone within the FAA, the Department of Transportation, or elsewhere in the U.S. government, or by a licensed spaceflight operator.
“There could be individuals whose contribution to commercial human space flight merits special recognition,” the wings program’s national policy said.
The Commercial Space Transportation associate administrator “has total discretion regarding identifying and bestowing FAA honorary award of Commercial Space Astronaut Wings to individuals who demonstrated extraordinary contribution or beneficial service to the commercial human space flight industry.”
An FAA spokesperson told the Washington Examiner that there are no nominations before the FAA to review for awarding the Blue Origin crew.
Bezos, 57, along with his 53-year-old brother Mark, 82-year-old female aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen, reached a height of 351,210 feet above Earth on Tuesday before descending in the New Shepard’s parachuted crew capsule.
Billionaire Richard Branson, three employees of his Virgin Galactic, and two pilots beat Bezos in the commercial space race, flying to nearly 55 miles above Earth on July 11.
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman