Blue Origin's auction winner can't make the company's first commercial spaceflight, but there will be a historic substitute. Jeff Bezos' firm has revealed that the first paying passenger for a New Shepard rocket is Oliver Daemen, who at 18 years old will be the youngest person to visit space. That's more than a little appropriate when one of his fellow passengers is 82-year-old Wally Funk, who'll be the oldest person to make the trip.
The flight is still scheduled for July 20th. The auction winner still wants to remain anonymous, but will take a later Blue Origin trip due to "scheduling conflicts."
It's not clear how much Daemen paid for the trip, but it's likely no small amount. Oliver's father is Joes Daemen, the CEO of hedge fund Somerset Capital Partners. While he probably didn't have to pay the $28 million from the auction, the final price was likely enough to keep other wealthy customers at bay.
This launch won't have as much impact as intended given Virgin Galactic's fully crewed spaceflight. Nonetheless, it's still historic beyond the ages of some of its passengers. This trip will include an honest-to-goodness paying customer. It might also be the first flight of its kind to technically enter space. While Virgin's altitude was short of the Kármán line (62 miles) that officially delineates space, Blue Origin is keen to point out that it should cross that symbolic barrier. Think of the July 20th flight as escalating a private space race that's unlikely to end any time soon.