Blue Origin reveals 18-year-old student is final crew member for 1st flight

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(NEW YORK) — Blue Origin revealed Thursday that the fourth member of its first crewed flight will be the youngest person ever to fly to space.

Oliver Daemen, 18, will join Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos (Jeff’s brother) and 82-year-old Wally Funk on a spaceflight set to launch next Tuesday from west Texas. Funk, a pioneering pilot who dreamed of being an astronaut in the 1960s, will become the oldest person to travel to space.

Blue Origin auctioned the final seat on its inaugural crewed flight for a whopping $28 million.

In a surprise announcement Thursday, however, the company said the anonymous auction winner will not be able to join the historic spaceflight due to “scheduling conflicts.” The bidder, who seeks to remain anonymous, will join a future mission, the company said.

Daemen will now earn the tile of the first paying customer to board the space tourism firm’s New Shepard spacecraft. The company did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his seat.

“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,” Bob Smith, the CEO of Blue Origin, said in a statement Thursday.

Daemen, who graduated from high school in 2020, has been besotted by space travel since he was four. He will attend the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands starting this September, and is set to study “physics and innovation management,” Blue Origin said.

The inaugural crewed flight for Blue Origin is scheduled for July 20. In total, the flight is only about 11 minutes, and approximately four minutes will be spent above the so-called Karman line that is defined as the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

It comes on the heels of a brief, successful spaceflight from Sir Richard Branson’s firm Virgin Galactic last weekend. The back-to-back missions are seen as ushering in a new era of space tourism that has been propelled by an emerging, billionaire-backed commercial space industry.

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