Blue Origin & Virgin Founders Develop Space Tourism Without Wings30th Jul 2021
As Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, and Virgin Galactic from Richard Branson, start a new era of space tourism, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announces new rules as to who can officially be considered an astronaut. Before both entrepreneurs went to the edge of space, only government-trained experts flew that far. Now, however, the situation is changing as both companies plan to introduce space tourism flights. However, according to the FAA’s new rules, none of these people can be considered astronauts — not unless they make ‘contributions to space flight safety’.
Changes to FAA Wings Programme
The recent developments in the space tourism niche forced the US government to update its regulations on granting official astronaut wings. The wings were first awarded to Mercury Seven participants Alan Shepard Jr and Virgil Grissom in the 1960s. Now, for the first time since 2004, the FAA introduced an update to its Wings programme. Anyone who wishes to qualify as a commercial astronaut will have to travel to the edge of space (around 80 km above Earth’s surface) and contribute to flight and human safety in the process. This means that Blue Origin and Virgin founders cannot be considered astronauts — not yet, at least.
Blue Origin & Virgin Space Tourism Flights
Even though the US government may not grant Bezos and Branson astronaut wings, their contribution to space tourism development is still impressive. Both entrepreneurs made their first flights to space this month — Branson on the 11th and Bezos on the 20th. Branson may have a higher chance of getting honorary wings (still allowed by the FAA) — not only because Virgin was the first company to carry out the flight, but mostly because Blue Origin spacecraft was fully automated. Still, regardless of whether the Blue Origin founder will get his wings, both companies’ contribution to space tourism development deserves the highest praise.