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Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos addressing the media about the New Shepard rocket booster and crew capsule mockup in April 2017. Photograph: Isaiah Downing/Reuters

An 18-year-old is flying to space with Jeff Bezos after the winner of a $28 million auction defers first flight

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Blue Origin announced Thursday that 18-year-old Oliver Daemen of the Netherlands will be joining founder Jeff Bezos on the company’s first crewed spaceflight after the winner of a $28 million auction postponed.

Blue Origin said the auction winner, who has asked to remain anonymous, would fly “on a future mission due to scheduling conflicts.” A company spokesman said Daemen, an incoming physics and innovation management student at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, had participated in the auction and “secured a seat on the second flight. We moved him up when this seat on the first flight became available.”

The company would not say how much Daemen bid. His father is Joes Daemen, the founder and chief executive of Somerset Capital Partners, which invests in real estate, private equity and financial markets.

The flight is scheduled for Tuesday from the company’s launch site in West Texas.

Daemen will travel with Bezos (who also founded Amazon and owns The Washington Post), his brother Mark Bezos and Wally Funk, an 82-year-old aviator and member of the Mercury 13 — a group of women who had been privately trained for NASA’s astronaut program at the height of the space race. Though they were put through the same rigorous testing as the Mercury 7, the women, unlike the men, never got the chance to fly.

Daemen would become Blue Origin’s first paying customer and the youngest person ever to fly to space.

“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.

Blue Origin described Daemen as a lifelong space enthusiast and said he took a gap year after graduating from high school in 2020 to obtain his private pilot’s license. On his LinkedIn page, Daemen lists NASA, Boeing, Tesla and Blue Origin as interests.

The $28 million paid by the unnamed auction winner is extraordinarily high for a suborbital flight that lasts roughly 10 minutes and affords just three or four minutes in space. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic had been charging $250,000 for similar flights. And Houston-based Axiom Space has sold week-long trips to the International Space Station for $55 million.

Blue Origin has said auction proceeds would go to its nonprofit, Club for the Future, which promotes careers in science, technology, math and engineering. On Wednesday, it announced it was awarding $1 million grants to 19 nonprofits, including the National Space Society, Space Camp, the Planetary Society and Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, a college group that Bezos was part of while an undergraduate at Princeton University.

Blue Origin said 7,600 bidders from 159 countries took part in the auction.

The flight is scheduled to coincide with the July 20 anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

“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,” Bob Smith, Blue Origin’s CEO, said in a statement, referring to the rocket system that will carry the passengers.

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About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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