Blue Origin’s First Paying Customer Will Be the Youngest Person in Space

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, inspects the booster on the landing pad after a successful NS-15 flight and landing. Blue Origin

With less than a week left before Jeff Bezos’ historic space trip, his rocket company Blue Origin has announced the final member of the four-person crew on the upcoming flight on July 20: an 18-year-old boy whose dad likely paid tens of millions of dollars for a seat next to the world’s richest man.

It’s already known that Bezos will fly with his brother, Mark Bezos, and the 82-year-old American aviation pioneer Wally Funk. Blue Origin had previously said the fourth crew member would be the winner of an online auction who had agreed to pay $28 million for a seat on the flight.

But this person won’t be able to make the trip due to “scheduling conflicts,” Blue Origin said Thursday. His seat will be taken by the runner-up of the auction, the 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who is about to the youngest person to go to space.

Oliver Daemen is the son of Joes Daemen, the CEO of Somerset Capital Partners, a hedge fund with $8 billion in assets under management, according to its website. It’s unclear exactly how much Oliver or his father paid for the space trip. It’s likely an amount large enough to keep other wealthy space enthusiasts at bay. Blue Origin has said the auction had more than 7,000 participants.

July 20 is the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Bezos apparently picked the date on purpose. However, his spaceflight won’t be as historic as he intended, because Richard Branson beat him as the first billionaire to go to space with his suborbital flight in a Virgin Galactic spaceplane on Sunday.

Still, Blue Origin’s flight will be special in its own way. The New Shepard rocket-capsule system carrying the crew will reach the Kármán line (62 miles), the official boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. Virgin Galactic’s flight stopped at an altitude of 53.5 miles.

“We thank the auction winner for their generous support of Club for the Future and are honored to welcome Oliver to fly with us on New Shepard,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said in an announcement Thursday. “This marks the beginning of commercial operations for New Shepard, and Oliver represents a new generation of people who will help us build a road to space.”

The original winner of Blue Origin’s auction, who has asked to remain anonymous, has chosen to fly on a future New Shepard mission, the company said.

Blue Origin’s First Paying Customer Will Be the Youngest Person in Space