Bezos, Branson may not get official astronaut status after FAA changes policy

Billionaires Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosElon Musk mocks Biden for ignoring his company's historic space flight SpaceX launches first all-civilian orbit crew into space Tucker Carlson says he lies when 'I'm really cornered or something' MORE and Sir Richard Branson may not get official astronaut status after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) changed its policy for the astronaut wings on the same day as Bezos’s space flight.

The FAA, which has not changed the requirements for astronaut wings since 2004, decided to change the rules on Tuesday when Blue Origin flew Bezos and three others to the edge of space. 

Before the rule change, Bezos would have qualified for the astronaut status since he was 50 miles above the Earth’s surface.

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However, the new requirement says a person must also have “demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety," putting Bezo and Branson’s astronaut status in jeopardy.

An FAA spokesperson told The Hill in a statement the move "aligns more directly to the FAA's role to protect public safety during commercial space operations." 

“When the program was first created in 2004, its focus was to recognize flight crewmembers who furthered the FAA’s mission to promote the safety of vehicles designed to carry humans. The FAA has now changed the focus to recognize flight crew who demonstrate activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety, among other criteria,” the spokesperson added.

Bezos and his crew did not do much while in space as the spacecraft was "an autonomous vehicle. There's really nothing for a crew member to go do,” Blue Origin’s CEO Bob Smith said. 

Branson launched his space flight earlier in July and did not contribute enough to explicitly qualify him for the status of an astronaut under the new rules, according to CNN.

The spokesperson for the FAA said to be under consideration for astronaut status a person would have to be nominated and there are currently no nominations under review.

Bezos and Branson could still receive the wings through a nomination or through an honorary award given to "individuals whose contribution to commercial human space flight merits special recognition,” according to CNN.

The FAA has the final word on who gets honorary awards for space travel.