A teenager is set to become the youngest astronaut ever after a multimillionaire was forced to pull out of Jeff Bezos’ maiden trip to space.
Next week, Oliver Daemen, a Dutch physics student, will fly with the world’s richest man aboard his New Shepard rocket when it takes off on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old will take his seat after his dad placed the undisclosed second place bid and the £20.25 million winning bidder deferred to a later flight “due to scheduling conflicts”.
Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin said the auction winner “has chosen to fly on a future New Shepard mission”.
The teenager is the son of financier Joes Daemen, founder and CEO of Dutch private equity firm Somerset Capital Partners.
He will fly to the edge of space with the Amazon founder, his brother Mark Bezos, and legendary aerospace pioneer Wally Funk on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket – which is scheduled to launch on July 20.
Blue Origin said Daemen was the “first paying customer” flying on New Shepard, with a spokesperson saying “he was a participant in the auction and had secured a seat on the second flight.”
“We moved him up when this seat on the first flight became available,” Blue Origin said.
At 18, Daemen would be the youngest person to fly to space, with Ms Funk, 82, also set to become the oldest person to become an astronaut.
The mission is taking off from Van Horn, west Texas, on July 20 – which is notable because it also marks the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said in a news release : “We thank the auction winner for their generous support of Club for the Future and are honored to welcome Oliver to fly with us on New Shepard.
“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.”
When Bezos invited Wally Funk to join him in space, she accepted straight away, saying she felt “fabulous”.
She told Mr Bezos: “I’ll love every second of it. Whoo! Haha. I can hardly wait.”
The Amazon founder will become the second person to ride his own rocket into space.
Sir Richard Branson, 70, went to space aboard his Virgin Galactic rocket plane on Sunday.
The entrepreneur hailed the “experience of a lifetime” on his company’s first fully crewed flight.
Sir Richard smiled as he headed back to the planet surface after feeling the thrill of weightlessness for several minutes.