The fourth passenger set to ride with Jeff Bezos on his space company’s suborbital rocket next Tuesday is a Dutch teen named Oliver Daemen, Blue Origin revealed Thursday. Daemen, the son of a Dutch private equity executive, will fill in for the winner of last month’s $28 million auction, who remains anonymous and “has chosen to fly on a future New Shepard mission due to scheduling conflicts,” a brief news release said.
Blue Origin’s launch, scheduled for July 20th, marks the company’s first crewed mission to the edge of space. Four people will launch aboard the company’s suborbital New Shepard rocket from a remote desert site in Van Horn, Texas, for a few minutes in microgravity. Blue Origin founder Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation icon and astronaut candidate Wally Funk, and Daemen will be New Shepard’s full crew. Daemen, 18, would be the youngest person to go to space, while Funk, 82, would be the oldest.
Blue Origin said Daemen marks the company’s first paying customer, but it’s unclear how much the ticket cost. “We’re not disclosing the price paid,” a Blue Origin spokeswoman said in response to questions from The Verge. “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.”
Oliver Daemen is the son of Joes Daemen, the founder and CEO of Somerset Capital Partners who paid for the New Shepard seat. Blue Origin hasn’t announced its price for New Shepard seats, and it’s unclear whether Joes Daemen paid the price he bid during the auction or an undisclosed price Blue Origin has set for New Shepard customers. It’s also unclear what “scheduling conflicts” prevented the anonymous bidder from flying on the debut crewed flight; bidders during the auction were made aware of the July 20th launch date.
“I am super excited to go to space and joining them on [the] flight,” Oliver 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.”
De 18-jarige Oliver Daemen uit Tilburg wordt de jongste astronaut ooit en de vierde Nederlander in de ruimte. Hij gaat mee met de ruimtereis van #BlueOrigin van #JeffBezos. Oliver is onderweg naar Texas, waar de lancering dinsdag plaatsvindt.https://t.co/hMsJWorRQK pic.twitter.com/5Xl3mqSAJt— Bright (@Bright) July 15, 2021
The company received Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly passengers on Monday, a week before launch. The New Shepard flight comes 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, including the company’s vice president of government affairs Sirisha Bandla, who became the second India-born woman to fly into space.
The two vehicles reach similar altitudes using different methods: Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard launches vertically, like normal rockets, with an acorn-shaped crew capsule on top that detaches at an altitude of roughly 62 miles and floats back to land under parachutes. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo drops from a carrier plane and uses a rocket engine to blast to an altitude of about 53 miles, the line considered space by NASA.