by Douglas Messier
So after more than a month of fevered speculation interrupted by rival Richard Branson’s suborbital hop on Sunday, Blue Origin has announced that the person flying with uber billionaire Jeff Bezos on Blue Origin New Shepard’s first crewed flight on July 20 is….an 18-year old physics student named Oliver Daemen from The Netherlands.
You did not see that coming, did you? Neither did I. Nobody did.
It turns out Daemen is flying because the anonymous auction winner who agreed to pay $29.68 million ($28 million bid plus 5 percent fee) had a scheduling conflict and cannot fly on July 20. The winner will take a later flight, so the runner up — who likely bid only slight less — will fly instead.
So, where does an 18-year physics student get that sort of money? Daddy’s a hedge fund manager.
“Flying on New Shepard will fulfill a lifelong dream for Oliver, who has been fascinated by space, the Moon, and rockets since he was four,” Blue Origin said in a press release. “Oliver graduated from high school in 2020 and took a gap year before continuing his studies to obtain his private pilot’s license. This September, Oliver will attend the University of Utrecht to study physics and innovation management.”
The suborbital flight, which will feature about 4 minutes of weightlessness, will make Daemen the youngest person to fly to space. It will be one small step for a teen, one giant leap for trust fund babykind.
Daemen will join Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, and pioneering aviatrix Wally Funk for the July 20 flight after two days of training at Blue Origin’s facility in west Texas. At 82, Funk will be the oldest person ever to fly into space.
The seat auction raised money for Blue Origin’s non-profit, Club for the Future. Yesterday, the organization announced grants of $1 million each to 19 non-profit space organizations.
“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,” said Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin. “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.”