Congratulations to the newest commercial astronauts!

Credit: FAA Office of Communications

Two pilots for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic received astronaut badges yesterday signifying that they had reached space…although just for a few minutes.

The pilots, Mark “Forger” Stuckey and Frederick “C.J.” Sturckow, received their astronaut wings on February 7, 2019 at a ceremony at the US Department of Transportation Headquarters Building in Washington, DC. The wings honor the flight the two took in Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Two craft VSS Unity on December 13th where they reached an altitude of 51.4 miles (82.7 km).

The US now recognizes 50 miles as the boundary of space, while the World Air Sports Organization (FAI) uses 100 km (62 miles) as the limit. However, the FAI is considering lowering the limit to 50 miles based on new research that shows more clearly where the atmosphere ends.

US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chou was on hand to award the astronaut wings to Stucky and Sturckow, and their boss — Richard Branson — announced that he’s hoping to fly on VSS Unity on July 20th, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Stucky presented Branson with a “future astronaut” t-shirt, causing the eccentric billionaire to immediately rip off his jacket and shirt to doff the t-shirt.

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