Meet the crew: Jeff Bezos is launching to the edge of space with his brother, an 82-year-old aviator, and a Dutch teen

Jeff Bezos
Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos.

The richest person on Earth is about to rocket to the edge of space, but he won’t be doing it alone.

Jeff Bezos, who founded the spaceflight company Blue Origin in 2000, is set to take its New Shepard rocket for a ride next week. He’s taking three others with him: his brother Mark, an 82-year-old aviator named Wally Funk, and an 18-year-old high school graduate named Oliver Daemen.

If all goes according to plan, that motley crew will lift off from Blue Origin’s West Texas launchpad at around 9 a.m. ET on Tuesday. The New Shepard rocket will scream through the atmosphere, pressing the passengers into their seats, before releasing the passenger capsule and allowing it to arc past the edge of space.

For about three minutes, Bezos and his companions will feel weightless. They’ll be able to float around the spaceship’s cabin, admiring the Earth’s curvature below them, before gravity begins to pull them back down. After a high-speed plunge through the atmosphere, the capsule should release three parachutes and drift safely to the Texas desert.

New Shepard has flown 15 times, but never with humans on board. This will be Blue Origin’s first passenger flight. Here’s what we know about the soon-to-be space tourists.

Mark Bezos is Jeff Bezos’ younger brother

Jeff Bezos Mark Bezos
Mark and Jeff Bezos in 2017.

When Jeff Bezos announced that he would be heading to space, he also revealed that he invited his younger brother, Mark. In a video posted to Instagram, Bezos said that he asked his brother to come along “because we’re closest friends.”

Mark, who is six years Jeff’s junior, is a former marketing executive and volunteer firefighter. He’s been involved in the Bezos Family Foundation for over 20 years, and was also an early investor in Amazon, likely making him a millionaire several times over.

Jeff has described his brother as the “funniest guy in my life” and said that when they’re together – often drinking bourbon – “I just laugh continuously.”

Wally Funk is an 82-year-old aviator who trained to go to space in the 1960s

Aviator Wally Funk gives a thumbs up surrounded by other hopeful space tourists
Wally Funk at a Virgin Galactic event in 2010.

Bezos announced earlier this month that Funk would be Blue Origin’s “honored guest” on its upcoming flight.

In 1961, Funk joined an all-woman space mission dubbed “Mercury 13.” But the program was ultimately scrapped – seemingly for sexist reasons – and Funk never made it to space. Funk later embarked on a long career in flight and says she has taught over 3,000 people to fly.

“No one has waited longer,” Bezos wrote in an Instagram post announcing that Funk was joining the mission. “It’s time. Welcome to the crew, Wally.”

Oliver Daemen is an 18-year-old soon-to-be college student from the Netherlands

Oliver Daeman smiling in front of water and mountain
Oliver Daemen.

Daemen will be Blue Origin’s first paying customer – he bid for the seat at an auction last month, ultimately losing out to an anonymous bidder who paid $28 million for the opportunity. But Daemen is flying in that passenger’s place after “scheduling conflicts” arose, Blue Origin said in a blog post on Thursday.

Daemen’s father, Joes Daemen, the CEO of real estate private equity firm Somerset Capital Partners, paid for the seat, according to CNBC.

Daemen graduated from high school in 2020, took a gap year to obtain his pilots license, and will attend college for physics and innovation management this fall.

Daemen will be the youngest person ever to go to space, while Funk will be the oldest.

“I’ve been dreaming about this all my life,” Daemen said in a video posted to Twitter. “I am super excited to experience zero-g and see the world from above.”

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