Facepalm: If you handed over $30 million to take part in something, one would imagine it being a pretty high priority in your diary. But the person who paid that amount to go into space with Jeff Bezos next week won't be on the spacecraft due to "scheduling conflicts."
Bezos' Blue Origin company announced that the anonymous winner, who paid $27.9 million for their ticket, has other plans on July 20. Their replacement will be Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate. He took a gap year in 2020 to obtain his private pilot's license and plans to study physics and innovation management at the Netherlands-based University of Utrecht in September
Daemen's father, Joes Daemen, CEO of Netherlands-based investment firm Somerset Capital Partners BV, paid an undisclosed sum for the ticket; it doubtlessly would have been a significant amount. Blue Origin confirmed to Forbes that Daemen was a participant in the June auction.
I am super excited to go into space," Daemen said in a video posted to Twitter. "I've been dreaming about this all my life."
De 18-jarige Oliver Daemen uit Tilburg wordt de jongste astronaut ooit en de vierde Nederlander in de ruimte. Hij gaat mee met de ruimtereis van #BlueOrigin van #JeffBezos. Oliver is onderweg naar Texas, waar de lancering dinsdag plaatsvindt.https://t.co/hMsJWorRQK pic.twitter.com/5Xl3mqSAJt--- Bright (@Bright) July 15, 2021
Daemen will be joining the world's richest man along with the Amazon founder's brother, Mark Bezos, on the New Shepard spacecraft. 82-year-old veteran pilot Wally Funk will also be onboard. The rocket will launch in West Texas next Tuesday and travel 62 miles above the Earth's surface, reaching the Kármán line, recognized as the start of space.
"At 18 years old and 82 years young, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk represent the youngest and oldest astronauts to travel to space," wrote Blue Origin.
The mission is expected to last just 10 minutes, three of which will be spent weightless in space. Blue Origin will be flown autonomously, removing the need for other personnel to pilot the craft, and it will descend to Earth using parachutes.
Blue Origin said that the original winner with the busy schedule would fly "on a future New Shepard mission," so at least they'll get their wish eventually.
In related news, the petition to stop Bezos returning to the planet's surface has reached almost 160,000 signatures.
If you would like to fly to the edge of space but aren't rich, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is running a sweepstake that will see one winner and friend travel to around 250,000 feet in the VSS Unity, where they'll experience weightlessness.