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Blue Origin will launch an 18-year-old as its final passenger on 1st crewed flight

Blue Origin employees practice exiting a New Shepard capsule after an uncrewed test flight.
Blue Origin employees practice exiting a New Shepard capsule after an uncrewed test flight. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

The first crewed spaceflight by Blue Origin next week will include the youngest astronaut into space in history, according to company officials.

The company announced 18-year-old Oliver Daemen on Thursday (July 15) as the first "paying customer" to fly alongside billionaire founder Jeff Bezos, Bezos' brother Mark, and Mercury 13 aviator Wally Funk on a New Shepard flight slated for Tuesday (July 20).

Blue Origin auctioned off the fourth seat on the launch to a top bid of $28 million, but Daemen is not flying through that bid. The anonymous individual who won the auction had a scheduling conflict, according to Blue Origin, and will be join a future flight. (The money went to Blue Origin's nonprofit organization Club for the Future, which has disbursed $1 million each to 19 non-profit organizations, Blue Origin said.)

Related: How to watch Blue Origin launch Jeff Bezos into space July 20
More: How Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital vehicle works (infographic)

In the statement, Blue Origin did not provide additional details about whether Daemen had entered the auction or how he arranged his seat.

However, a company spokesperson told CNBC that he participated in the auction and had obtained a seat on Blue Origin's second crewed flight. (Before the event, the company did not announce that the auction would facilitate purchases of seats on later flights.)

The spokesperson also told CNBC that the seat was purchased by Daemen's father, Joes Daemen, a private equity firm CEO. The amount of the bid has not been made public. Oliver Daemen moved up a spot when the winning auction bidder was not available, the spokesperson said.

Oliver Daemon, 18, will join Blue Origin's first crewed spaceflight, scheduled for July 20. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

Daemen has been interested in space since age four and is in the middle of a gap year while obtaining his private pilots' license, Blue Origin said in a statement. Oliver is expected to attend the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands in September to study physics and innovation management.

The youngest person so far to reach space was Gherman Titov, who was 25 when he flew on the Soviet Union's Vostok 2 mission in 1962. (Funk, at age 82, would be the oldest astronaut after John Glenn flew on NASA space shuttle mission STS-95 in 1998, at age 77.)

The New Shepard rocket and capsule will launch from Launch Site One, a remote area in the west Texas desert. Bezos, who is better known for creating Amazon, founded Blue Origin in 2000 to eventually bring rich space tourists to suborbital space.

The debut New Shepard crewed flight is scheduled to take place just nine days after competitor Virgin Galactic launched its own billionaire founder Richard Branson on Sunday (July 11).

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.