If it takes an astronaut to know one, Jeff Bezos and his crew mates are astronauts.
Bezos, founder of Amazon.com Inc. and the world’s richest man, along with three other civilians completed Blue Origin’s space flight on Tuesday, rocketing some 62 miles above Earth after launching from Bezos’s West Texas ranch.
“Technically speaking, once you pass that 62-mile mark, you will be in space and therefore have traveled in space, which is the definition of an astronaut,” former astronaut Janet Kavandi, now Sierra Nevada Corp. executive vice president for space systems, said in an interview on Bloomberg TV’s Surveillance program.
Kavandi spent more than 33 days in space during three missions from 1998 to 2001, and was director of flight crew operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
While Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-year-old Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen spent only minutes in sub-orbital space, Kavandi says they join the group of people who have slipped the bounds of Earth.
“Not necessarily a career astronaut, but an astronaut nonetheless,” Kavandi said. She praised the mission spearheaded by Bezos as both “very elegant” from a technological standpoint, and a “wonderful achievement.”
At Sierra Nevada, Kavandi is in charge of the company’s space program, including the Dream Chaser space plane, which is scheduled to supply the International Space Station starting later this year. Dream Chaser, a winged craft, is the only re-supply vehicle that can land on a commercial runway, according to the company’s website.
Earlier this month, billionaire Richard Branson soared to 53.5 miles (86 km) above the Earth aboard a space plane, after it was carried to high altitude by another aircraft. The craft afterward glided down and landed on a runway.