Is Jeff Bezos an Astronaut Now?


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About six years ago, Michael López-Alegría, then president of the association’s United States chapter, and Andrew Turnage, the group’s executive director, started discussing the idea of such pins.

NASA has given pins to its astronauts since the earliest days of the space program

“But none of the other agencies have anything like that,” Mr. López-Alegría said. “So we thought about something, you know, as a universal pin, because that seems only fair that other countries ought to have something to wear as well.”

The association sidestepped the “astronaut” quandary by using the term “space travelers” instead. “There’s some variety of opinions within the membership and we shied away from using the word ‘astronaut’ on the certificates that accompany these pins,” Mr. López-Alegría said.

He presented one of the suborbital pins to Beth Moses of Virgin Galactic after her first flight.

Mr. López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut, already owns a surfeit of astronaut paraphernalia. He has one of the Association of Space Explorers pins. He has the NASA pin, as well as wings as a Navy officer turned astronaut that he wore on his military uniform. “I have those, but I haven’t worn a Navy uniform since I’ve retired,” he said.

And he could get one of the F.A.A. commercial astronaut wings next year. Mr. López-Alegría, vice president of business development at Axiom Space, a Houston company arranging trips by private citizens to the International Space Station, will be the commander of the first of Axiom’s missions, scheduled to launch in January.

Mr. López-Alegría, for one, would like the more expansive definition of astronaut, that it encompasses everyone who has left Earth’s atmosphere, even if just for a few minutes.


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