FAA Rule Change Strips ‘Astronaut’ Title from Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos speaks about his flight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard into space during a press conference on July 20, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been stripped of his “astronaut” titles by the FAA. According to the agency’s revised definition of astronaut, the term may only be used for those that “demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety.”

The FAA has tightened the official definition of an astronaut, which strips Bezos and his fellow Blue Origin passengers of the term, as they have failed to meet the new criteria on their recent flights, according to a report by ABC 7. Richard Branson would have also been stripped of the title based on his Virgin Galactic flight, but it occurred about a week before the rule change.

Astronauts now have to be part of a crew that “demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety,” according to the FAA’s new rules regarding the Commercial Space Astronaut Wings Program.

The updates reportedly make for the first time the rules have been changed in 17 years.

One reason Bezos doesn’t meet the requirement is due to the Blue Origin being largely autonomous, notes USA Today.

“This is an autonomous vehicle. There’s really nothing for a crew member to go do,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said, according to Space News.

As for Branson, he and three others had flown into space on Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo a little more than a week before Bezos’ Blue Origin flight. Branson and his crew were given their wings as their flight took off before the criteria change, reports UPI.

Under the new rules, however, only two pilots on Branson’s flight would have qualified for wings.

The FAA adds that individuals can file an appeal in an attempt to receive their wings despite the new criteria, but that so far, no one who flew aboard the Blue Origin has done so, telling CNN, “there are no nominations currently before the FAA to review.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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