18-year-old physics student takes place of $28M auction winner to fly with Jeff Bezos 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.’ 

Blue Origin said on Thursday that 18-year-old physics student Oliver Daemen will take the place of the anonymous bidder to fly 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.’ 

Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, Daemen and two other passengers are now set to liftoff from West Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space

Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace ‘Wally’ Funk, Daemen and two other passengers are now set to liftoff from West Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space

Jeff Bezos¿ Blue Origin received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space on July 20

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space on July 20

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

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

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.


Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin's space capsule

Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule

Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the ‘new space race’.

Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20. 

The billionaire mogul will travel with his younger brother Mark, a charity auction winner who’s shelling out $28 million and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.

However, Branson has now announced he’s planning to make a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos and his brother. He revealed on Twitter that he plans to be Astronaut 001 on Virgin Galactic’s July 11 test flight.

Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit. 

SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.  

On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached. 

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

NASA has already selected two astronauts who will be on-board the first manned Dragon mission. 

SpaceX has also started sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network. 

Musk hopes this will provide an interconnected web of satellites around Earth which will beam down free internet to people worldwide.  

Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity space plane. 

The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7). 

More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips. 

Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX. 

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.

The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.

It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.

Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.

The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.

Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.

The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.   

Bezos is one of the richest men in the world and Blue Origin has successfully flown the New Shepard rocket 15 times.

At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk