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The Blue Origin New Shepard takes flight. Photo: Blue Origin

The FAA updated its requirements for who qualifies for commercial astronaut wings.

Why it matters: As more people fly to space in the coming years with companies like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, having some clarity about who counts as a commercial astronaut could help customers weigh the risks versus rewards of flying.

Catch up quick: Previously, to qualify for FAA commercial astronaut wings, a person needed to count as a crewmember — not a passenger or participant — on an FAA-licensed flight that took them at least 50 miles above the Earth. (NASA has a different definition of who qualifies as one of the agency's astronauts.)

  • The updated rules still include those requirements, but the FAA has also added that to qualify for wings, an applicant also needs to demonstrate "activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety," according to the new order.
  • The FAA also added the option of qualifying for honorary wings for "individuals whose contribution to commercial human space flight merits special recognition," but may not meet the other requirements.

What to watch: It's not clear exactly who will qualify for FAA commercial astronaut wings among the people who flew on suborbital flights with Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson in the past two weeks.

  • Both companies did award their own wings to those who flew with them to memorialize their flights.

Yes, but: The most basic definition of "astronaut" is really just anyone who flies to space.

  • "The FAA does not decide who is an astronaut. Nor does the U.S. government," says space historian Robert Pearlman. "FAA Commercial Astronaut wings are just that, wings for commercial astronauts. You can be an astronaut and not be a commercial astronaut."

Go deeper... New wrinkle for space tourism: Deciding who counts as an astronaut

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 26, 2021 - Science

Space industry continues its growth in 2021

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The space industry continued to grow in the third quarter of 2021, according to a new report from the Space Foundation.

Why it matters: The investments will fuel the future of the space industry, which Bank of America says could reach $1.4 trillion by 2030.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, while portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.

Colleyville Rabbi credits survival to active-shooter training

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, one of the people taken hostage in a synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, said in an interview with CBS Monday that he initially took in the man because he thought he needed shelter.

The big picture: Cytron-Walker said he spoke to the hostage taker, identified by the FBI as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, for several minutes and made him tea before Akram took the rabbi and three other people hostage during Shabbat services for around 11 hours in Colleyville, Texas.