An 18-year-old will become the youngest astronaut in history on July 20 when he soars alongside billionaire Jeff Bezos for the maiden flight of Blue Origin's spacecraft, the aerospace company said Thursday.
A 2020 high school graduate, private pilot's license holder Oliver Daemen is Blue Origin's first paying passenger, but is not the winner of the auction for an onboard seat, which won for $ 28 million.
This passenger has requested to remain anonymous, and will fly on a future mission, the company said.
The announcement "marks the start of commercial operations for New Shepard," Blue Origin's vessel, said Bob Smith, the company's boss.
"Oliver represents a new generation of people who will help us build a road to space," he added.
Flying aboard New Shepard will make it possible to fulfill the dream of his life for Oliver Daemen, fascinated by space, the Moon and rockets since he was 4 years old, details a press release.
He plans to study physics and innovation management at Utrecht University in the Netherlands from September.
The company did not specify Oliver Daemen's nationality, but his public Instagram account has comments mostly written in Dutch.
- An important milestone -
The future student will join Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, as well as Wally Funk, the oldest future astronaut in history at 82, among the passengers of the first manned flight of the New Shepard spacecraft.
Bezos, Amazon founder and richest man in the world, hopes to join Richard Branson in the club of billionaires who have reached space in a vessel built by their own company.
Richard Branson accomplished it aboard a Virgin Galactic spacecraft on Sunday, a significant milestone for the still-nascent space tourism industry.
Even though Jeff Bezos will come in second, Blue Origin boasts that its travel experience is superior to that of Virgin Galactic, because unlike its competitor, Blue Shepard crosses the recognized international border of space, at an altitude of 100 kilometers. .
Blue Origin also claims its rocket is more environmentally friendly.
The company's ambitions do not stop at space tourism since it now hopes to become a major subcontractor for NASA missions.
Currently, Elon Musk's SpaceX company represents the main private sector partner for the US space agency, including taking several astronauts to the International Space Station since 2020. SpaceX is also developing a distant space exploration rocket for future manned missions to Mars.
© 2021 AFP