Blue Origin Auction Winner Backs Out, 18-Year-Old Flies Instead
18-year-old Oliver Daemon will become the youngest person ever to travel to space as the fourth passenger on Blue Origin’s first crewed mission this week to the edge of outer space (flying with Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, and 82-year-old aviator Wally Funk).

The Atlantic calls it “a rather unusual bunch”:

When they take off on Tuesday, they will each fulfill a personal dream, but as a crew, they’re making history: No group like this one has ever gone to space together before. Even the participants of the most diverse missions to the International Space Station have had far more in common with one another than this quartet. They were all professional astronauts, with comparable ages, educational backgrounds, and even temperaments, given that potential astronauts must undergo psychological screenings before getting the job. The motley crew of Blue Origin’s first passenger flight seems closer to a cast of offbeat characters gathered together for a zany adventure: If The Breakfast Club had the brain, the jock, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal, this Blue Origin flight has the boss, the tag-along, the real deal, and the kid…

Blue Origin has conducted 15 test flights of the New Shepard rocket, but has never before flown the vehicle with people on board.

Of the passengers on Bezos’s debut flight, Daemen might be the most unexpected pick. In fact, Daemen wasn’t supposed to be on this flight. Blue Origin had held an auction for one of the seats on the flight, culminating in a top bid of a whopping $28 million. But the company said today that the winner, whose name has not been disclosed, decided to skip this particular flight and go later, citing “scheduling conflicts,” so the company slotted in Daemen, a soon-to-be physics student at Utrecht University, in the Netherlands. (Blue Origin said the teen was “a participant in the auction,” but did not disclose how much the seat cost.)

Daemen and Funk, as Blue Origin pointed out in its announcement, “represent the youngest and oldest astronauts to travel to space.” But describing them by age alone elides the very different journeys they have taken to reach this point. Funk is an aviation legend who underwent more difficult tests than John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, had to, and has waited 60 years for this moment. Daemen is a teenager who took a gap year to get his pilot’s license, and the son of a private-equity executive… Daemen represents a new class of spacefarers; in the coming years, as private companies such as Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX make people into astronauts more readily than government agencies like NASA can, the distance between a childhood dream and reality is bound to shrink. Expect more smorgasbord space crews like the Blue Origin one, filled with an assortment of very wealthy individuals and the people they choose to go with them…

The rules about who can become an astronaut have changed, and the new “right stuff” is money and luck.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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