Blue Origin rounds out passenger list with youngest person ever to fly to space

Teenagers in space! Well, one of them.

There’s a new passenger on the roster for the July 20 launch of billionaire Jeff Bezos’ first crewed spaceflight from his private space company Blue Origin. His name is Oliver Daemen, and he’s an 18-year-old aspiring pilot starting his education in physics and innovation management at the Netherlands’ University of Utrecht this fall.

Daemen will join Bezos; Bezos’s brother Mark; and legendary aviator Wally Funk, who balances out the age range at 82 years old for the first crewed ride aboard the New Shepard rocket, developed and operated by Blue Origin, the company announced Thursday. Mark and Funk were both asked to join the flight, which makes Daemen the first paying customer flying to space with Blue Origin.

At 18, Daemen will be the youngest person to ever travel to space. Alongside him, 82-year-old Funk will be the oldest, making the flight a doubly historic one.

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Daemen’s attendance on the first fully crewed Blue Origin spaceflight diverges from the company’s original plans. The fourth seat was supposed to go to a mysterious person who bought a $28 million ticket at auction, but that person had to delay to a future flight due to scheduling conflicts, Blue Origin said in its announcement. (We still do not know who the buyer is nor why they had to delay their spaceflight.)

Daemen’s ticket was purchased by his father, Joes Daemen, the CEO of private equity firm Somerset Capital Partners, CNBC reported. The fact underlines the divide between the wealthy and the rest of the world as the private space tourism industry gets off the ground.

Flying to space on a New Shepard rocket involves a vertical launch sending up to six passengers more than 62 miles up into the sky past the Kármán line, the widely recognized altitude where space begins. Near the top of the journey, the passenger cabin separates from the rocket booster. While passengers unbuckle and experience zero gravity with views that are literally out of this world, the reusable rocket lands itself carefully on the launchpad. After a few minutes, the cabin descends slowly back to Earth with the help of a parachute. The whole trip lasts about 11 minutes.

The New Shepard has performed 15 successful test flights thus far and received clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to take people to space on Monday. July 20’s planned launch comes hot on the tail of Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed flight of its SpaceShipTwo spaceplane on Sunday, featuring billionaire founder Richard Branson.

Blue Origin has not announced when future spaceflights will commence for hopeful space tourists, including the $28 million auction winner.

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