Teenager To Join Bezos Brothers, Wally Funk on First New Shepard Passenger Flight

Teenager To Join Bezos Brothers, Wally Funk on First New Shepard Passenger Flight

The person who paid $28 million for the first seat on a passenger flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket will not be making the trip after all. Instead, 18-year old Oliver Daemen will fill the fourth seat. He will join Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, his brother, Mark, and 82-year old Wally Funk, who has been waiting six decades for her chance to become an astronaut. Daemen will be the youngest person, and Funk the oldest, to fly to space.

Oliver Daemen. Credit: Blue Origin

The auction winner “who has asked to remain anonymous at this time, has chosen to fly on a future New Shepard mission due to scheduling conflicts,” the company said in a press release.

A Blue Origin spokesperson told SpacePolicyOnline.com via email that Daemen “was a participant in the auction and had secured a seat on the second flight. We moved him up when this seat on the first flight became available.”

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. 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. — Blue Origin


Daemen, who is Dutch, posted a short video on social media in English sharing his excitement.

Blue Origin said Daemen is the first paying customer on New Shepard and this flight, scheduled for 9:00 am ET on July 20, marks the beginning of commercial operations.

Oliver is the son of Joes Daemen, founder and CEO of Somerset Capital Partners, who participated in the auction. Blue Origin is not disclosing how much he bid.

New Shepard is a reusable suborbital rocket named after Alan Shepard, the first U.S. astronaut who made a suborbital spaceflight on May 5, 1961. New Shepard has made 15 test flights from its launch site near Van Horn, Texas with no one aboard. This is the first flight with a crew.

The vehicle ascends vertically above the Karman line at 62 miles (100 kilometers) that some use as the demarcation line between air and space. The crew capsule, which can hold six passengers but will take only four this time, separates from the rocket and lands under parachute near the launch site while the rocket returns to its launch pad.

Blue Origin’s competitor in the commercial suborbital human spaceflight market, Virgin Galactic, operates a completely different type of system. The founder of that company, Richard Branson, made a flight to space on Sunday in what many  characterize as a battle of the billionaires to win astronaut wings.

Bezos announced on June 9 that he and his brother, Mark, would be on New Shepard’s first passenger flight. On July 1, he revealed the third seat would go to Wally Funk, a famed aviatrix who participated in tests in the 1960s that she and a group of other women, the Mercury 13, thought would put them in line to become NASA astronauts. NASA did not accept women as astronauts until 1978, however.

The Bezos brothers, Funk and Daemen are scheduled to launch on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. The entire flight lasts about 11 minutes. Blue Origin will livestream the event beginning at 7:30 am ET.

Though the auction winner will not be making the flight, Blue Origin is disbursing the $28 million — $1 million grants to 19 space-based charities and the remaining $9 million to Bezos’s own Club for the Future.

Also, the Smithsonian Institution announced yesterday that Bezos is donating $200 million, the largest gift in its history other than the original gift from James Smithson in 1846. The money will be split between paying for ongoing renovations of the National Air and Space Museum ($70 million) and building a new center for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) education ($130 million).

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.