Saturday, March 23, 2013

POLL: What is a Space Traveler?


What is a "Space Traveler" ?
  • A Government-sponsored astronaut or cosmonaut.
  • Plus an X-15 pilot who reached "space" (62 miles or 100km) ?
  • Plus a commercial traveler who reached "space" sub-orbitally
  • Anyone who has been above 50 mile mark

Please note: if Poll Widget throws an error, just use back button to try again :)
Also - You can check more than one box.

Quite a quandary for me, recently. Each time the Shuttle or Soyuz rocket launched in the past few years, I have tweeted if any rookies were aboard. I've been counting all the "Space Travelers" for years now, and would generally let folks know how many new men and women braved the black!

Now, however, I'm realizing my count may be inaccurate, but it depends on whether one is using the aviation definition of space, NASA's definition of space, or the modern scientific consensus on where space begins?

How High Is Space Chart

For my count on the Astronaut / Cosmonaut Birth Places Map, I tallied all the people who flew official missions for government agencies.  I included the handful of "space tourists" because each had been trained or sponsored by those agencies.

The annals of history show us that the "line" where Earth sky ends and SPACE begins has been debated in terms of the biospheric corona, and we may need to include some of the very early pioneers (X-15 test pilots) as well as the most modern pioneers (Sub-orbital plane passengers).

NASA awards "astronaut" status for flights above 50 miles. However, "Space" is said to begin at least 62 miles up, or 100 kilometers even.  Despite not being on official "missions", Joe Walker set the first altitude record for winged flight, topping 107 kilometers. Then, he set the second.

Test Pilot Joe Walker
Test Pilot Joe Walker, first man to reach space twice

A further 7 pilots in the X-15 program flew higiher than NASA's mark of 50 miles.  So... are they astronauts?  Or are we only space travelers if we break the 100km / 62 mile-mark?

In 2004, Mike Melvill flew Mojave Aerospace Venture's "SpaceShipOne" above 100 kilometers.  He became what some call the "first commercial astronaut". Six days later, Brian Binnie flew to 107-112 kilometers (debated), becoming the second.

These were new record for non-government, non-orbital aircraft, and they won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for the accomplishments Both men reached the required altitude height to be awarded astronaut status... but...

Mike Melvill Joe Binnie
Binnie & Melvill... Space Travelers or just High Flyers?

Are all astronauts created equal? Do we consider them to be "Space Travelers" alongside famed agency heavyweights like Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong, or any others who have performed orbits and/or trips to the Moon? Should we include them in the "overall" count of humans in the great beyond?

Please feel free to vote or weigh in with an opinion in the COMMENTS section below.