On Tuesday, July 20, at 9.12 a.m. ET Blue Origin with its crew took off from Van Horn Texas to conquer the final frontier. Although the team aboard the Shepard spacecraft reached space and were in space for a few minutes, they will not get astronaut wings, according to new FAA rules.
The New Shepard rocket booster detached from Blue Origin and floated in zero gravity for four minutes before returning to space. It was an autonomous spacecraft controlled from earth and this is why the FAA will not award the crew astronaut wings.
The four-member team in the Shepard capsule included
- Jeff Bezos — billionaire and founder of Amazon and Blue Origin
- Mark Bezos — brother of Jeff Bezos
- Wally Funk — oldest woman to reach space, NASA trained
- Oliver Daemen — paid traveler and youngest person to reach space
To date, the FAA has awarded astronaut wings to the pilots who flew the Virgin Galactic spaceplane and were present in the cockpit. They were actually flying in space instead of being controlled from earth. Chief Astronaut Beth Moses also received astronaut wings as she had flown solo in an earlier test flight by Virgin Galactic.
Nobody from Blue Origin has qualified to get astronaut wings under the new FAA rules. Wally Funk might be given honorary astronaut wings for her contributions to human space flight possibly sometime in the future.
Space travel, as a commercial industry, may see a setback if all future travelers expect to receive astronaut wings by just sitting in a capsule or spacecraft and paying a hefty sum of money for the privilege of reaching space, experiencing weightlessness and seeing beautiful vistas.
However, there is always a possibility of privatization of astronaut wings just like these billionaires have privatized space flights and made it a vanity experience. Those who travel to space on Virgin Galactic space craft can be called Virgin Galactic astronauts and get private wings from the company. Those who travel to space on Blue Origin-Shepard spacecraft can be called Blue Origin astronauts and get private wings from the company. After all, all these paying space experiences are a form of vanity travel as of now.