The mystery of who will occupy the final seat on Blue Origin's debut human spaceflight next week is a mystery no longer: The company revealed today that the winning bidder who forked over $28 million for the privilege is actually going to fly on a later mission, and instead the final seat on the debut flight will go to Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate bound for the University of Utrecht. He'll be the youngest person to travel to space, which means this launch will include both the youngest and the oldest people ever to make the trip.
Blue Origin is planning to fly its founder Jeff Bezos to space in just a few days, on July 20, on its debut human spaceflight. That spacecraft will also be carrying Bezos' brother, along with 82-year-old aerospace pioneer Wally Funk, on the trip to suborbital space for a few minutes of weightlessness and unparalleled views before coming back down for a controlled landing in West Texas.
The final seat was auctioned off via a multistage process that culminated in a live online bidding rally, which brought the final total paid for the ticket to that whopping $28 million, which is much more than the regular price of the average seat will be during regular commercial flight of the New Shepard spacecraft. That winner, who remains anonymous for now, has declined to go on this one due to "scheduling conflicts." The funds from the ticket auction are actually being donated to charity, however, rather than acting as revenue for Blue Origin in a commercial sense, going instead to its registered nonprofit Club for the Future, which is dedicated to furthering STEM education.
Blue Origin's New Shepard launch vehicle is designed for suborbital commercial human spaceflight, including both tourism and research uses. The fully reusable system consists of a booster and an upper-stage that includes a crew capsule, and after a series of test flights that began in 2015, Blue Origin is now ready to fly it with people on board for the first time, as a final set of demonstrations before commercial operations start up.