So far, space travelers have received a gold pin after their journey into space. The program for this ends this year.
Anyone who has previously traveled into space as a commercial astronaut could apply to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a gold pin as an honor. But the FAA "announced on Friday that it was ending a program that would give small gold pins called Commercial Space Astronaut Wings to individuals who have flown in private spacecraft," reports the New York Times.
From 2022 this golden pin will no longer exist. With this, the administration wants to avoid the uncomfortable situation that the paying space tourists are actually not astronauts at all. They are just passengers flying into space.
What Does That Mean For Bezos, Branson, And Their Customers?
However, anyone who flew into space in 2021 can still apply for the golden pin. So Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and their customers still receive this honor, which has been awarded since 2004. Originally, Patti Grace Smith, the first director of the FAA's commercial space agency, wanted to use it to fuel the private development of manned spaceflight.
Everyone who has reached space was allowed to attach the golden pin. The Amazon founder and operator of the private space company Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, flew into orbit with his New Shepard rocket in July. There he had passed the 100-kilometer mark, which, according to international definition, represents the beginning of space - the so-called Kármán line.
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson only barely reached the 80-kilometer mark during his summer space flight. But that's enough in the US to have been in space. To qualify for the commercial astronaut wings under the original guidelines, a person had to reach an altitude of at least 50 miles - which is roughly 80 kilometers. This is the boundary of space recognized by NASA and the US Air Force. In addition, the honorary bearer had to be a member of the flight crew of the spaceship.
There are now 30 people on the list of the commercial Space Astronaut Wings program. Although no one will receive the little golden pins after 2021, they will still be included in the agency's online database. But those who travel into orbit with SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, or Blue Origin have received an individually designed wing from the space company - probably the minimum for the price of the tickets.