Last Saturday (4), with the launch of Blue Origin’s fifth manned flight, civil production engineer Victor Correa Hispanha became the second Brazilian to travel into space. Before him, only former Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Marcos Pontes had such privilege.
On Blue Origin’s fifth manned mission, civil production engineer Victor Hispanha became the second Brazilian to be launched into space. Photo: Personal Archives – Instagram
Both, however, can be considered pioneers. While Pontes was the first Brazilian and South American astronaut to travel outside Earth, Hispanicha holds the title of the first Brazilian space tourist.
But what sets these two designations apart after all? And more: What is the difference between one trip and the other?
Space tourists are not astronauts
In common parlance, everyone who goes into space is called cosmonauts (or their national specification, such as cosmonauts from Russia and cosmonauts from China). But in fact, there are criteria that must be evaluated in order for a space traveler to receive this rating.
Besides the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there are two other government agencies authorized to grant the title of astronaut: the Department of Defense and NASA, which grant this status only to their employees.
According to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, crew members who fly more than 80 km above the Earth’s surface can be classified as astronauts. According to this scale, passengers of Blue Origin expeditions are included, since the company’s flights go beyond the Kármán line, which is located at an altitude of 100 kilometers above sea level and is considered the frontier where outer space begins.
However, this is not the only limiting factor. The astronaut candidate must undergo extensive training approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and “demonstrate in flight procedures important to public safety or that contribute to the safety of human space.” In addition, the person in the crew must be assigned to perform certain tasks during the flight, and not just an ordinary passenger.
The New Shepard capsule, which carries Blue Origin passengers on manned missions, is a fully self-sufficient system, so none of them need to take on pilot roles or any other activity. Thus, Hespanha and the other members of the company’s manned missions are space tourists, not astronauts.
Differences between Marcos Pontes and Victor Hispanha spaceflight
Science X Tourism. This is the fundamental difference between the Marcos Pontes and Victor Hispanha space missions.
Born in Bauru (SP), Pontes holds a degree in Aeronautical Technology from the Air Force Academy (AFA), in Pirassununga, São Paulo, and a master’s degree in Systems Engineering from the US Naval Postgraduate School, California. He officially graduated as an astronaut in 2000 after being selected by NASA to attend the two-year course of the Astronaut Training Program.