The 18-year-old Dutch teenager Olivier Daemen will be the fourth passenger to ride with Jeff Bezos on this space company’s suborbital rocket next Tuesday. Daemen, the son of a private equity executive, will fill in for the winner of last month’s $28 million auction — who will have to pass on this flight due to “scheduling conflicts.”
The launch, scheduled for July 20th, will be Blue Origin’s first crewed missions to the edge of space. Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation icon and astronaut candidate Wally Funk, and Daemen will launch aboard the company’s suborbital New Shepard rocket from Texas for a few minutes in microgravity.
Daemen marks Blue Origin’s first paying customer, but it’s unclear how much the ticket cost. A spokeswoman at the company told The Verge they are not disclosing the price paid. “He 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,” she added.
The teenager, 18, would be the youngest person to go to space, while Funk, 82, would be the oldest.
Space goes brrr
Olivier Daemen is the son of Joes Daemen, the founder and CEO of Somerset Capital Partners. He had secured a seat on the second flight but was moved up when the seat on the first flight became available, the spokeswoman at Blue Origin explained.
Flying on New Shepard will fulfill a lifelong dream for Daemen, who has long been fascinated by space and rockets since he was four, Blue Origin said. He graduated from high school in 2020 and took a gap year before continuing his studies to obtain his private pilot’s license. He will attend the University of Utrecht to study physics and innovation management.
“I am super excited to go to space and joining them on [the] flight,” Daemen said in a video posted by Bright, a Dutch media brand. “I’ve been dreaming about this all my life, and I will become the youngest astronaut ever, because I’m 18 years old.”
Oliver Daemen: “I am super excited to be going to space and joining” Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, and Wally Funk on the first Blue Origin crewed flight.https://t.co/RlW3GGdOMC
— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) July 15, 2021
A race to space
Blue Origin received Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly passengers last Monday, a week before launch. The flight will be just nine days after billionaire Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson flew to space from New Mexico aboard his company’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplane with three other company employees.
Branson was accompanied by pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, chief astronaut Beth Moses, operations engineer Colin Bennett and VP of government affairs Sirisha Bandla. VSS Unity can take up to six passengers and two pilots, and the flights won’t go empty anytime soon. The company already has 600 reservations for tickets on future flights, sold between $200,000 and $250,000 each.
Branson wasn’t previously expected to fly just now, as Virgin had said the company planned to fly the founder on its second to last test flight. But after fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos announced his own plan to fly on his company Blue Origin’s first passenger flight on July 20, Virgin decided to rearrange the schedule to secure an early lead in the “billionaire space race.”
Global space tourism is projected to reach just $1.7 billion by 2027, according to a report published earlier this year. Virgin already has some big names on its list of confirmed customers, from Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis to Justine Bieber and Rihanna – who have allegedly paid the ticket for a seat on future flights.