18-year-old student is first customer on Blue Origin rocket to space

Blue Origin announced on Thursday that 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, a physics student, will take the place of the anonymous winning bidder who spent $28 million to fly to space on the New Shepard rocket next week.

Daemen will be the ‘first paying customer’ Blue Origin said in an email, flying to the edge of space, alongside Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace ‘Wally’ Funk and two other passengers.

A Blue Origin spokesperson told DailyMail.com they are not disclosing the price that Daemen paid for the seat, but confirmed he participated in the auction.

‘He was a participant in the auction and had secured a seat on the second flight,’ the spokesperson said via email. ‘We moved him up when this seat on the first flight became available.’

‘At 18-years-old and 82-years-young, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk represent the youngest and oldest astronauts to travel to space,’ Blue Origin said in a statement. 

The Bezos-founded Blue Origin said the winner of last month’s public auction is unable to go into space ‘due to scheduling conflicts’ and wishes ‘to remain anonymous at this time.’

DailyMail.com has reached out to Blue Origin to understand the nature of the ‘scheduling conflict.’ 

‘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 in a statement. 

‘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.’ 

The auction gift has allowed Club for the Future to donate $1 million each to 19 non-profit organizations, which are all supporting living and working in space. 

The winner of the auction beat 20 other participants in a bidding spree that auction in late May and wrapped up with a 10-minute online bidding frenzy in late June, livecast by Blue Origin.  

The July 20 launch – which coincides with the anniversary of the moon landing – will be the first test of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket with people on board, kicking off the company’s space tourism business.  

Blue Origin named the New Shepard program after astronaut Alan Shepard, who was the first American to fly into space exactly 60 years ago.

Fifteen previous test flights of the reusable rocket, which brings the capsule to an altitude of more than 340,000 fleet, and capsule since 2015 – short hops lasting about 10 minutes – were all successful.

Bezos, the world’s wealthiest man and a lifelong space enthusiast, is racing against fellow billionaires Richard Branson and Elon Musk in what the media has described as ‘the billionaire space race.’ 

On Monday, Blue Origin received approval Monday from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space on July 20.

New Shepard, which stands 60 feet tall, was specifically designed for Blue Origin’s space tourism venture and has successfully completed 15 test launches, with the latest on April 14.

The capsule that rides atop New Shepard seats six passengers and is equipped with reclining seats.

Each of the seats has a window that are said to the ‘the largest to fly into space.’

Cameras line the interior, allowing travelers to share their memories that are truly out of this world.

The crew is set to travel 62 miles above Earth’s surface, where they will experience weightlessness due to the zero gravity and see the curve of the planet with the darkness of space as the backdrop.

Blue Origin’s maiden voyage will, however, travel farther than Branson’s who reached an altitude of 53.5 miles over the New Mexico desert before gliding safely back to Earth.

It is not clear how long they will spend just beyond the edge of space, but Blue Origin has stated in the past that paying customers will spend as much as 10 minutes in zero gravity before returning to Earth.  

The billionaire space race is fueled by optimism that space travel will become mainstream as nascent technology is proven and costs fall, fueling what UBS estimates could be a $3 billion annual tourism market by 2030.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, as well as Musk’s SpaceX, have also discussed using their rockets to link far-flung global cities.

UBS says that long-haul travel market could be worth more than $20 billion, though several barriers such as air-safety certification could derail the plans.

Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said: ‘Putting the world’s richest man and one of the most recognized figures in business into space is a massive advertisement for space as a domain for exploration, industrialization and investment.’

Blue Origin has not divulged its pricing strategy for future trips.

In 2018 that Blue Origin was planning to charge passengers at least $200,000 for the ride, based on a market study and other considerations, though its thinking may have changed. 

Washington state-based Blue Origin is largely self funded by Bezos, who has been selling over $1 billion worth of stock in Amazon per year to fund the company. 

The company recently conducted its first astronaut rehearsal in preparation for sending the first manned New Shepard into space.

The mock crew traveled the designated path of future spacefaring tourists, which included traveling to the launch pad and climbing up the tower to the passenger capsule.

While celebrities and the uber-rich appear to be a core market for space tourist jaunts, at least initially, industry sources expect Blue Origin to include some philanthropic component to its ticket strategy.

The idea of sending paying customers to the edge of space was once only a plot in science fiction films, but many companies other than Blue Origin are turning the epic journey into a reality.

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