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No more Commercial Space Astronaut Wings after this year because FAA has been handing them out like candy

You can still get a badge if you go now

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is ending its Commercial Space Astronaut Wings programme, citing waning exclusivity.

"The Astronaut Wings program, created in 2004, served its original purpose to bring additional attention to this exciting endeavour," said FAA associate administrator Wayne Monteith, adding: "Now it's time to offer recognition to a larger group of adventurers daring to go to space."

While people reaching 50 statute miles on an FAA-licensed or permitted launch or re-entry will no longer receive a badge, they will still be added to an FAA database recognising those achieving spaceflight.

The original purpose of the programme, currently enjoyed by 24 individuals, was to give a nod to pilots and flight crew who furthered the FAA's mission to promote the development of human-ferrying space vehicles. The FAA said it expects new additions to increase dramatically in the coming years, so the regulatory body's vision is "largely fulfilled."

The FAA expects the commercial human spaceflight industry to continue to grow and the number of people launching to space to increase dramatically in the coming years.

Some 15 of the 24 already documented are from flights taking place in the second half of 2021 alone. When you add to that the crew, inclusive of NFL player and TV celebrity Michael Strahan, Alan Shephard's daughter and STEM champion Laura Shepard Churchley, as well as four others who went up via Blue Origin over the weekend, this year's additions make up more than two-thirds of all commercial space adventurers.

One can see how the consistency and regularity of commercial spaceflight has led the FAA to believe the programme's mission has been accomplished.

The FAA was already on a path towards philosophically redefining the criteria needed to be an astronaut before giving up on the wings altogether. Last July, the organisation released a five-page document [PDF] narrowing who was qualified to receive the wings. This required participants to undergo training and complete activities "essential to public safety or contributed to human space flight safety."

The FAA has decided to let any joyriders or pay-to-play participants who venture into space get their pin until the end of the year. The programme is ending soon, so it seems they figured – why get strict now? ®

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