[FPSPACE] Civil astronaut wings

B. Vis bertvis at wxs.nl
Wed Oct 13 04:04:08 EDT 2004

What I'm interested in is to see if the FAA is willing to award their
astronaut wings to NASA's X-15 pilots Joe Walker, John McKay and Bill Dana.
Although their flights may not have been commercial, they DID fly their
craft, in the case of Walker even above the FAI boundary of space (100 km).
Since the military X-15 astronauts got astronaut wings from their branch of
the military, and the three NASA pilots got nothing to the best of my
knowledge, I think that it would be more than justified, even though in the
cases of Walker and McKay, it would be a posthumous recognition of their

I think that Mirelson's remarks are somewhat remarkable as Walker, McKay and
Dana were not just "sitting in the right seat" but did a lot more flying
that any mission specialists or, in particular, payload specialists has ever
done. Still, NASA has never given them astronaut wings.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "DwayneDay" <zirconic1 at earthlink.net>
To: <fpspace at friends-partners.org>
Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2004 12:08 AM
Subject: [FPSPACE] Civil astronaut wings

> www.nytimes.com
> October 12, 2004
> Now Earning Wings, a New Kind of Astronaut
> fter SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize competition last
week, the man who took it into space, Brian Binnie, became the second person
ever to receive a new kind of honor: commercial astronaut wings awarded by
the Federal Aviation Administration for those who fly more than 50 miles
above Earth.
> Michael W. Melvill, who flew the plane on its first two successful
missions, in June and in September, is the only other person to receive the
pin, which resembles those worn by spacefarers in NASA and the military.
Only 434 people have left the planet in the four decades of the space age
and can wear a version of what must be one of the very most enhancing
> The F.A.A. wings were the brainchild of Michelle S. Murray, an aerospace
engineer in the aviation agency's Office of Commercial Space Transportation,
which regulates businesses that are out of this world, or aim to be.
> The two pins that have been awarded so far were made to order, according
to the F.A.A., and new ones will be ordered when, or if, they are needed.
> The X Prize was conceived to encourage a new role for the private sector
in human space travel, beginning with space tourism. Burt Rutan, the
designer of SpaceShipOne, has signed a deal to develop a larger craft for
Sir Richard Branson, who has announced flights beginning as soon as 2007 for
passengers willing to pay $190,000 for what would have to be considered the
ultimate thrill ride: a roller coaster some 60 miles high.
> Which raises the question: Will the passengers also qualify for astronaut
> Afraid not, said Hank Price, a spokesman for the F.A.A. The wings were
only for the pilot and crew. But how about if the pilot hands off the
controls to the passenger for a few seconds during the flight? Nice try, he
said. "They'd violate their license."
> Why, then, does everyone who flies on the space shuttle receive astronaut
wings, even though only two people pilot each mission?
> For that one, the F.A.A. suggested calling NASA.
> Robert Mirelson, a NASA spokesman, said that under that agency's rules,
"the criteria are more for participation than sitting in the right seat."
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