The long-awaited announcement of the fourth passenger of Blue Origin’s maiden crewed New Shepard flight is a glimpse into a farce that appeared to have unfolded behind the scenes.
Blue Origin concluded a multi-phase auction process for a seat aboard the maiden crewed New Shepard flight with a live auction on June 12. After just six minutes, the auction was won by an anonymous bidder with a bid of $28 million.
According to Blue Origin, the identity of the anonymous bidder would be “released in the weeks following the auction’s conclusion.” However, over a month went by without an announcement prompting many to ask what was taking so long.
In a July 15 release, Blue Origin finally revealed the identity of the fourth passenger. 18-years-old Oliver Daemen will join Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, and 82-year-old Wally Funk, who was part of the Mercury 13.
Daemen was, however, not in any way related to the anonymous bidder of the June 12 auction.
According to Blue Origin, the original winner was unable to be a part of the flight due to “scheduling conflicts.” This struck many as an unusual reason considering the July 20 launch date was announced well ahead of the live auction.
Although the winning bidder will not fly on the maiden flight, Blue Origin has stated that he or she will be aboard a future New Shepard mission.
This, as a result, appears to preclude the possibility that the mystery passenger failed to meet the not insignificant physical requirements outlined by Blue Origin. This has left the world to speculate that it was a public relations issue that Blue Origin has spent the last month trying to navigate.
Whatever the reason, an auction that was seen as a flippant display of extreme wealth during one of the most trying times in modern history concluded with a mad scramble to give the prize to the guy who came in second. This can’t have been the triumphant maiden flight Bezos had hoped for when he chose the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing as its launch date.