Jul 15, 2021 - Science

Blue Origin picks teen to fly to space for its first human mission

A Blue Origin capsule descending back to Earth against blue skies and clouds under three blue and red parachutes
A New Shepard capsule descending to Earth. Photo: Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has selected 18-year-0ld Oliver Daemen to fly aboard the first crewed suborbital flight of its New Shepard space system on July 20.

Why it matters: This flight will represent the culmination of years of work for Blue Origin, which has the goal of helping to build a future in which millions of people live and work in space.

The intrigue: While Blue Origin is billing Daemen as the first paying customer to fly aboard New Shepard, he was not the winner of the auction staged for this seat.

  • The anonymous auction winner — who paid $28 million — has a scheduling conflict and plans to fly on a future flight, according to the company.
  • Blue Origin hasn't disclosed how much Daemen paid for the seat or how he was selected.
  • The crew for next week's launch is now set with Bezos and his brother Mark joined by Daemen and Wally Funk, a woman aviator who passed astronaut tests in the 1960s.

The big picture: Tuesday's flight will continue this summer of suborbital spaceflight.

  • Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson flew to the edge of space with his company on Sunday, beating Bezos to his flight by a little over a week.
  • It's not yet clear what the market for these suborbital flights will be in the future, but both companies are hoping to draw in customers now to expand their base.
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