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18-year-old physics student to fly to edge of space with Bezos

Blue Origin personnel standing in as astronauts during Mission NS-15 pose in front of the New Shepard Crew Capsule after a successful mission on April 14, 2021.
Blue Origin personnel standing in as astronauts during Mission NS-15 pose in front of the New Shepard Crew Capsule after a successful mission on April 14, 2021. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin has revealed the identity of the first paying customer aboard its New Shepard capsule, set to launch on Tuesday, July 20, and reach the edge of space. And it might not be someone you expected.

The lucky (and wealthy) winner of an auction for the seat is Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old physics student who would set the record for youngest person in space. Daemen is the son of Joes Daemen, the CEO of Somerset Capital Partners in the Netherlands.

The elder Daemen was the runner-up in an auction for the ticket aboard the first crewed New Shepard launch. The winner paid $28 million, according to Blue Origin, but backed out of the inaugural flight due to scheduling conflicts. According to the private spaceflight company, that person will ride to space in a future Blue Origin flight. 

Related: Here's every spaceship that's ever carried an astronaut into orbit

The company did not disclose what Daemen paid for his son's ticket. 

The New Shepard rocket is a reusable vehicle that can carry up to six people into suborbital space. It has launched successfully 15 times, including three test flights that involved ensuring that the crew escape system works properly. The rocket is controlled by onboard computers and does not require a human pilot. 

Four people will be aboard the inaugural crewed launch on July 20: Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, the former head of Amazon; his brother, Mark Bezos, Daemen and pioneering female aviator Wally Funk, age 82. Funk was one of 13 graduates of the private Women in Space program, which put female pilots through the same paces as astronauts in training in the 1960s. NASA never considered sending these women to space, though, and Funk went on to a barrier-breaking career as a Federal Aviation Administration inspector and National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator. 

With the choice of Funk and Daemen as passengers, Blue Origin will set records for both the oldest person and the youngest person in space. Funk will break the record of astronaut John Glenn, who traveled aboard the space shuttle Discovery at the age of 77 in 1998. Daemen will break the record of Russian cosmonaut Gherman Titov, who orbited Earth at the age of 25 in 1961. 

Originally published on Live Science

Stephanie Pappas

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science covering topics from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. A freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, she also regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.