Is it so easy to go into space? With the development of automated vehicles and the explosion of space tourism, it has become very easy to land an astronaut just for crossing the right height, as long as you are rich enough. In the USA, the Federal Aviation Administration intends to tighten the eligibility requirements for astronaut wings. What would encourage others to revise existing standards?
Imagine: you have enough money in your bank account to buy yourself a ticket for a small space flight with Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, or even to the International Space Station, thanks to SpaceX and Axiom Space. You will handle the journey of your life, stay for a few minutes or even days in space and return unscathed.
This does not mean that you will necessarily receive your own astronaut wings. In short, you may not be considered a fully qualified astronaut.
Anyway, not necessarily in the US. The US Civil Aviation Administration (FAA) appears to be reviewing the criteria it uses to determine who can earn an FAA badge. This is what the specialized site noted space news By browsing files modern documents From a US government agency.
Thus, three criteria are required: fulfillment of the qualification and training requirements for the manned flight. Exceeding 80 km (50 miles) above sea level in an FAA approved vehicle; Finally, display activities during the flight that were necessary to public safety or that contributed to the safety of human spaceflight.
It turns out that the third condition is new: it was not found in older versions of the FAA. Also in this document, this type of modernization is set out to preserve the prestige of the astronaut suites, at a time when we’re seeing a rise in space tourism, with extremely wealthy individuals able to pay a ticket to live in microgravity.
A decision that only requires the Federal Aviation Administration
The scope of the FAA’s decision stops at the US border: in fact, it’s not, say, a FAI decision. In fact, other countries are free to define their criteria for designating people above a certain height for the designation of an astronaut.
This is all the more true because the United States itself does not define the boundaries of space like everyone else. According to the agreement, the whole world chooses a height of 100 km, symbolized by the Karman line. Across the Atlantic, for historical reasons and for selection in units of measurement (miles, rather than kilometers), the space threshold is about 80 km (50 miles).
The stricter eligibility requirements for earning FAA astronaut wings on commercial flight are justified by the increased ease of access to space. The document, dated July 20, 2021, is also the first update to the rules since 2004, when the Federal Aviation Administration developed an insignia for astronauts traveling through private groups.
To Space News, the FAA said, When the program was created in 2004, its goal was to identify the flight crew members who developed the FAA’s mission to enhance the safety of vehicles designed to transport humans. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has now changed the focus to identifying flight crew members who demonstrate in-flight activities that were essential to public safety, or that contributed to the safety of human spaceflight, among other criteria. »
Another argument can be made in favor of a tougher definition: a spacecraft used for space tourism purposes is so automated, that people on board have nothing to do but enjoy their little ride. This is usually the case with the New Shepard rocket and capsule, made by Blue Origin: everything is automatic and monitored from Earth.
The FAA badge is not the only one in the United States: other astronaut wings can be awarded, for example by NASA, to their personnel who go into space. It is also given by the Army by the Land and Air Army such as the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines. NASA is also planning an insignia for civilians.
The question of the increasing ease with which it is possible to go into space, and what that might mean for astronaut distinction, could eventually arise in other countries. However, the development of space tourism is currently taking place primarily on the other side of the Atlantic. If there are satellite programs elsewhere in the world, the tourist component is almost non-existent.
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