18-year-old student is final crew member for Blue Origin’s Van Horn space flight
VAN HORN, Texas — Blue Origin revealed Thursday that the fourth member of its first crewed flight will be the youngest person ever to fly to space.
That’s because the mystery bidder who put up a whopping $28 million for an 11-minute joy ride to the edge of space alongside Jeff Bezos will not make the trip, Bezos’ rocket company said in a surprise announcement.
Blue Origin said in a press release that the person, who asked to remain anonymous for the time being, had to bow out because of “scheduling conflicts.” The winning bidder will instead take a spot on a future mission. Flying in their place — alongside Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, and Wally Funk, an 82-year-old pilot and one of the “Mercury 13” women — will be an 18-year old recent high school graduate named Oliver Daemen.
The flight is slated for July 20, taking off from a launch site near Van Horn in Culberson County.
Daemen “was a participant in the auction and had secured a seat on the second flight. We moved him up when this seat on the first flight became available,” a Blue Origin spokesperson said. “We’re not disclosing how much he paid.” A source familiar with the matter said Daemen’s spot was purchased for him by his father, Joes Daemen, who is the founder and CEO of Somerset Capital Partners, an investment firm based in the Netherlands.
Daemen, who plans to attend the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands this fall, will become the youngest person ever to fly to space, while Funk will become the oldest.
This trip will mark the first ever crewed flight of Blue Origin’s suborbital space tourism rocket, called New Shepard, and the company used that fact as a selling point leading up to a livestreamed bidding war last month.
The $28 million bid was far higher than most had anticipated the auction would fetch. Blue Origin donated the money to its nonprofit group, Club for the Future, which is focused on encouraging science and tech education among children. Club for the Future in turn donated $19 million of that money to a variety of space-focused nonprofits, including the Brooke Owens Fellowship, which is a women-in-tech scholarship fund, and the famed but financially struggling Space Camp in Alabama.
Blue Origin has spent the better part of the last decade running the suborbital New Shepard rocket through a series of successful test flights that have been fully automated and, thus far, carried no humans. The company announced last month that it was finally ready to begin scheduling flights for passengers and that Bezos, the Amazon billionaire who founded Blue Origin in 2000, would be on the first-ever mission.
According to the company’s website, there are a few limitations on who can take a New Shepard flight: Everyone must be 18 years or older, be in good enough physical shape to climb seven flights of stairs in a minute and a half, be between 5’0″ and 6’4″ in height and between 110 pounds and 223 pounds in weight. Passengers must also be able to fasten and unfasten their seat harness in less than 15 seconds, spend up to an hour and a half strapped into the capsule with the hatch closed, and withstand up to 5.5G in force during descent.
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