18-year-old Joins Blue Origin’s First Passenger Spaceflight


An 18-year-old is about to become the youngest person in space, rocketing away with an aviation pioneer who will become the oldest at age 82. Blue Origin announced Thursday that instead of a USD 28 million auction winner launching with founder Jeff Bezos on Tuesday, Dutch runner-up Oliver Daemen will be on board. The company said he’ll be the first paying customer, but did not disclose the price of his ticket.

“I am super excited to experience zero-g and see the world from above,” Daemen said in a video posted by Dutch broadcaster RTL. Also soaring on Blue Origin’s first launch with passengers: Bezos’ brother and Wally Funk, one of 13 female pilots who went through the same studies in the early 1960s as NASA’s Mercury 7 astronauts did, but were rejected for being women.

The four will blast off from West Texas atop a New Shepard rocket for a 10-minute flight. According to Blue Origin, Daemen took a year off after graduating from high school last year to obtain his private pilot’s license. He’ll attend the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands in September. His father is Joes Daemen, founder and CEO of Somerset Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Oisterwijk, Netherlands. Both father and son are already in the US preparing for the launch, according to a company representative. “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,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said in a statement.

Blue Origin said the yet-to-be-identified winner of the charity auction is stepping aside because of a scheduling conflict and will catch a future flight. Daemen was going to be on the second launch for paying customers. The company has yet to open ticket sales or disclose its prices to the public. That’s expected following Bezos’ flight.

The Amazon founder will become the second person to ride his own rocket into space, following Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson by nine days. Soviet cosmonaut Ghermon Titov holds the record for the youngest to fly in space. He was 25 when he blasted into orbit four months after Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space. John Glenn was 77 when he launched aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1998, 37 years after becoming the first American to orbit the world.

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