An 18-year-old Dutch student will become the youngest ever person in space after being confirmed as the first paying passenger aboard Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s rocket when it lifts off next week.
Oliver Daemen will join Bezos, the tycoon’s brother Mark and veteran aviator Wally Funk on the New Shepard mission to space when it blasts off from Texas on Tuesday.
Funk, who was one of 13 women to take part in NASA spaceflight training in the 1960s only to be denied actual missions, will become the oldest person in space on next week’s flight.
The original winner of the auction to secure the fourth spot in the capsule has bailed on the first mission because of a scheduling conflict. The anonymous bidder paid $28 million.
It is believed Daeman’s millionaire father Joes had secured a place on the second planned flight in the auction but offered his seat to his son when the place became available on the first flight.
The teenager, who graduated from high school last year and is due to study physics at the University of Utrecht, says the flight will fulfil a lifelong dream.
Bezos’s flight will come nine days after he was beaten into space by his rival billionaire Richard Branson. The Virgin tycoon completed a successful return journey on Sunday, 17 years after he began his quest to take passengers into space.
But it is likely to be next year before any of the hundreds of people who have paid up to £250,000 for a ride with Virgin Galactic will actually get to make the journey.
Taking a paying passenger up is a landmark moment for Bezos’s Blue Origin.
Unlike Branson’s aircraft-launched spaceship, Bezos’s New Shepard will blast off as a more traditional rocket-and-capsule launch.
Those aboard will experience the weightlessness of zero gravity for a few minutes at a height of 62 miles above the earth’s surface, higher than the 53 miles reached by Virgin Galactic. Where Branson had two pilots aboard, there will be no crew on New Shepard as the entire operation is automated.
Branson, Bezos and SpaceX founder Elon Musk have been engaged for years in a billionaire’s battle to win the space tourism race. Musk was in New Mexico to witness Branson’s flight and the three continue to believe there is a huge market among those wanting to fly to space.
Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic received approval from…