In the age of space tourism, who can hold the title “Astronaut”?

A photo of Buzz Aldrin by Neil Armstrong, two individuals who hold the title “astronaut” (Public domain)

A piece in Time Magazine raises an interesting question: in the age of space tourism, who can hold the title “astronaut”? Some believe that only those who pilot a spacecraft should be given the title, whereas others believe anyone who crosses into low earth atmosphere—regardless of the role they have on the flight—should be given the moniker. Regardless, one point is clear, as Jeffrey Kluger writes:

“Hansen agrees, and warns that playing with astronaut nomenclature risks not only denying the title to people who may deserve it, but stripping it from those who historically earned it. The original NASA Mercury astronauts, after all, often complained that their missions were overly automated, with much of the flight run by computer, and the astronauts themselves there mostly to observe and intervene if needed.”

Read more at Time Magazine.