It’s planned to be another record-setting private space adventure. An 18-year-old is about to become the youngest person in space. He’ll be rocketing away with an aviation pioneer who will become the oldest.
Blue Origin, the space company founded by former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had offered the final seat to the highest bidder in an auction. But the company announced Thursday that instead of a $28 million auction winner taking off with Bezos et al on Tuesday, the Dutch son of another bidder will be on board. The company said Oliver Daemen will be its first paying customer. It did not disclose the price of his ticket. But a family spokesperson said it will be considerably less than the winning bid.
Daemen snagged the fourth and last seat on the space capsule after the auction winner stepped aside, claiming a scheduling conflict. The offer came in a surprise phone call from Blue Origin last week.
“The flight to and into space only takes 10 minutes, but I already know that these will be the most special 10 minutes of my life,” the teen gushed. A recent high school graduate, Daemen took a year off after commencement to obtain his private pilot’s license. He intends to attend the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands in September.
Others on board Blue Origin’s first manned flight will be Bezos’ brother and Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk. Funk is one of 13 female pilots who went through the same tests in the early 1960s as NASA’s Mercury 7 astronauts. She never went to space though. That’s because only men were allowed. Tomorrow, she hopes that will change. Ms. Funk is 82 years old. With this flight, she will become the oldest human yet to make it to space.
The four will blast off from West Texas atop a New Shepard rocket for a 10-minute flight. The Amazon founder will become the second person to ride his own rocket into space, following Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson by nine days.
The teen tourist was going to be on the second launch for paying customers, according to Blue Origin. But once the auction winner dropped out, the company seized on the idea of flying the oldest and youngest people in space on the same flight.
The cost of Daemen’s ticket will be donated to charity.
Daemen already has gotten some good space-traveling advice from Dutch astronaut and two-time space flier Andre Kuipers. According to the statement, Kuipers told him “not to make the classic mistake of taking pictures in the short time he is up, but to fully enjoy the view of our beautiful planet.”
That’s good advice for all of us, whether on the Earth or above it. Life is a gift to be enjoyed fully and thankfully in the present.
(Oliver Daemen sits in an airplane cockpit. The 18-year-old from the Netherlands is about to become the youngest person in space. He will travel on Blue Origin’s July 20 launch from West Texas. Daemen family via AP)