FAA Awards Astronaut Wings to Jeff Bezos and William Shatner

But at the end of the year, the Commercial Space Astronaut Wings program is ending.

Actor William Shatner (left) discusses his space experience with Jeff Bezos. Screengrab from Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and William Shatner are earning “astronaut” wings for their recent flights that reached space. 

The FAA on Friday said it will be awarding the honor to 15 people who reached the 50-mile mark above Earth in 2021, including honorary awards to two more who flew on a FAA-permitted experimental test flight in a space launch vehicle that broke up during flight in 2014. Those who qualify before the end of the year also will be eligible. 

Aside from Bezos, Branson, and Shatner, others who will receive wings for their endeavors this year include:

  • Colin Bennett, Virgin Galactic on July 11, 2021
  • Sirisha Bandla, Virgin Galactic on July 11, 2021
  • Mark Bezos, Blue Origin on July 20, 2021
  • Wally Funk, Blue Origin on July 20, 2021

American aviator Funk broke a world record during her flight by becoming the oldest person in space at 82 years old. That record has since been broken by Shatner, who is 90. 

  • Oliver Deamen, Blue Origin on July 20, 2021
  • Jared Isaacman, SpaceX on September 16, 2021
  • Sian Proctor, SpaceX on September 16, 2021
  • Hayley Arceneaux, SpaceX on September 16, 2021
  • Christopher Sembroski, SpaceX on September 16, 2021
  • Audrey Powers, Blue Origin on October 13, 2021
  • Chris Boshuizen, Blue Origin on October 13, 2021
  • Glen de Vries, Blue Origin on October 13, 2021

De Vries died on November 11, less than a month after his flight when an airplane carrying him and his flight instructor, Thomas Fischer, the founder and chief instructor at Fischer Aviation, went down near Branchville, New Jersey.

With That, Commercial Wings Program Ends

In making the announcement, the FAA also said that in 2022 it will end its Commercial Space Astronaut Wings program. Instead, those who reach the 50-mile mark will now just be listed on the FAA’s website. 

“The U.S. commercial human spaceflight industry has come a long way from conducting test flights to launching paying customers into space,” FAA Associate Administrator Wayne Monteith said in a statement. “The Astronaut Wings program, created in 2004, served its original purpose to bring additional attention to this exciting endeavor. Now it’s time to offer recognition to a larger group of adventurers daring to go to space.”

The program was created by the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation’s former Associate Administrator, the late Patti Grace Smith, according to the FAA. 

“Its purpose was to recognize pilots and flight crew who furthered the FAA’s mission to promote the development of vehicles designed to carry humans into space,” according to the FAA statement. “With three commercial space companies now licensed by the FAA to fly spaceflight participants, and companies conducting operations, her vision is largely fulfilled.” 

Based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Meg is head of Digital Editorial Content, bringing 20 years of editorial experience in both digital and print to the Firecrown team. Follow Meg on Twitter @emdash13.

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