MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Federal Aviation Administration changed its policy on who qualifies as a “Commercial Space Astronaut” on the very day billionaire Jeff Bezos blasted off into space on July 20th.
The FAA tells CBS News the revision, “changed the focus to recognize flight crew who demonstrate activities during flight that was essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety, among other criteria.”READ MORE: FBI: Body Found Near Search Area For Missing Florida Woman Gabby Petito Consistent With Her Description
CBS News space consultant Bill Harwood says the FAA’s definition is mostly symbolic. The agency gives you a set of wings to pin to your flight suit.
“Think about an honorary degree from a college. It’s very similar to that,” Hardwood explained.READ MORE: Massive Search Underway For Brian Laundrie, Fiancé Of Missing Florida Woman Gabby Petito
But at a time when civilian space travel is becoming more common, it does open the debate over just who is an astronaut. “I’ve always considered astronaut a professional job title. In other words, if it was your job to fly in space, however you define it, then you’re an astronaut,” Harwood says.
Sir Richard Branson, who made his own space flight 9 days before Bezos, may also not meet the new FAA criteria.
Harwood explained, “They leave it a little bit blurry. If they think that you’ve done something to advance the cause of space exploration, played some role in a flight beyond merely being a passenger, they reserve the option to give you those astronaut wings.”MORE NEWS: MDPD Seeking Driver Who Hit, Killed Man Riding Mini Scooter In Florida City
Both Branson and Bezos met the altitude requirement in the FAA’s definition of at least 50 miles above Earth.