Blue Origin has announced the fourth passenger for its first crewed flight, and it reveals the elitist side of the increasingly tense space tourism race.
On Thursday, the company announced that teenager Oliver Daemen will be the first paying customer to fly on the July 20 mission, which will send the group past the boundary of space on a flight lasting around 11 minutes total.
Daemen, 18 years old, will be the youngest astronaut to ever fly to space. He will beat Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov, who completed 17 orbits of Earth in 1961 at age 25.
But the flight also shows that the ultra-rich will be the big beneficiaries of early space tourism. With Virgin Galactic selling early tickets for $250,000, and Blue Origin’s first ticket selling for an eye-watering $28 million, the message is clear: space tourism will remain the domain of the wealthy in its early phase.
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Blue Origin flight: who is Oliver Daemen?
Daemen is described by Blue Origin as the “first paying customer.” CNBC received confirmation from the firm that Daemen is the son of Joes Daemen, founder and CEO of Netherlands-based Somerset Capital Partners.
Blue Origin describes Daemen as someone “who has been fascinated by space, the Moon, and rockets since he was four.” He graduated from high school in 2020, and his LinkedIn profile shows he studied for his private pilot’s license in Spain. Daemen plans to attend the University of Utrecht this September to study physics and innovation management.
Daemen was a participant in Blue Origin’s auction for the seat. The auction, announced on May 5, saw nearly 7,600 people register to bid from 159 countries. The final bid, announced on June 12, was $28 million.
But somewhat confusingly, Daemen was not the winner of the auction — his father secured a seat on the second flight. The auction winner, who is still anonymous, could not fly on the first mission due to a scheduling conflict. They will instead fly on a future New Shepard mission.
CNBC reported that Joes paid for the seat and chose to fly Oliver instead. It is unclear how much Joes was paying for either flight, and Blue Origin has yet to announce any pricing details for future flights.
Blue Origin flight: who else is going?
The firm will send up three passengers alongside Daemen:
- Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and Blue Origin and one of the world’s richest men.
- His brother Mark. Jeff announced that the pair would fly in a video shared on June 7.
- Wally Funk, an aviator known as one of the “Mercury 13,” women who tested for spaceflight in the 1960s. Funk will be the oldest person to fly into space at 82 years old, beating John Glenn who flew at age 77 in 1998. Blue Origin announced the plan on July 1.
Blue Origin flight: what does it show about space tourism?
The flight brings together one of the world’s richest people, that person’s brother, the son of a CEO, and an accomplished aviator. It’s a sharp reminder that the early stages of this space race will remain largely in the realm of the ultra-rich.
Virgin Galactic’s rumored list of ticket-holders, according to USA Today in 2014, include Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Leonardo DiCaprio, Katy Perry, and others. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also reportedly holds a ticket.
The new era of private spaceflight opens travel up beyond an elite of specially chosen astronauts. But make no mistake: the early beneficiaries appear to be those of either extraordinary talent or wealth.
For the everyman, space will likely remain out of reach for now. That isn’t to say there won’t be benefits, just as the sixties era of space travel also brought technological advancements.
But for those wanting to experience their own “overview effect,” they will be likely looked over for now.
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