Chinese crypto entrepreneur Justin Sun revealed himself Wednesday as the mysterious auction winner who secured a seat on Blue Origin’s first crewed spaceflight last summer with a $28 million bid — only to skip it. Now he has a travel window and plans to handpick five people to join him.
Sun said his future crew mates will hold “special status” in such fields as cryptocurrency, technology and art, and include a “socially influential celebrity.” Their identities will be announced sequentially in the run-up to the flight, his tweet said.
Sun’s $28 million bid covers the cost of his seat; he’ll pay separate, undisclosed fares for the others, a Blue Origin spokesperson said. The auction proceeds benefit the company’s foundation, which works to advance science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and “the future of life in space.”
Sun’s big reveal marks the latest turn in a prolific year for civilian spaceflight. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is already flying NASA astronauts into orbit, and it won the NASA contract to put them on the moon. In July, Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson became the first of the “space barons” to fly to the edge of space. Jeff Bezos followed less than two weeks later aboard a Blue Origin rocket.
Sun initially won the auction to accompany Bezos on that July 20 spaceflight but withdrew due to “scheduling conflicts.” He had outbid thousands people representing more than 150 countries, according to the company.
In his place went Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old student from the Netherlands. The teen accompanied Bezos and his brother, Mark Bezos, and Wally Funk, an 82-year-old aviator and member of the Mercury 13 — a group of women who had been privately trained for NASA’s astronaut program at the height of the space race. (Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Three months later, 90-year-old William Shatner broke Funk’s record to become the oldest person to go to space. The actor is best known for portraying Capt. James T. Kirk in the Star Trek TV and movie franchise.
In mid-December, Blue Origin sent a crew of six to space that included Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Also aboard was Michael Strahan, a co-host on “Good Morning America” and former NFL star.
(1/12)6 months ago, I was lucky enough to win the auction of Blue Origin’s first launch! Today, I announce that I’m launching the "Sea of Stars" campaign, which will select 5 warriors to explore space with me in 2022! @blueorigin @clubforfuture!— H.E. Justin Sun 🅣🌞🇬🇩 (@justinsuntron) December 22, 2021
Details: https://t.co/uoCCwofsjk pic.twitter.com/gZmPDQ3l5D
In his Twitter thread, Sun left enigmatic descriptions of the types of people who will accompany him to space: a prominent cryptocurrency figure who is “crazy about cruising in Metaverse”; a member of the blockchain community; a tech entrepreneur; an artist to create space-themed art; and a celebrity.
Sun said his “Sea of Stars” campaign is meant to encourage regular people to get involved in space exploration. The title pays homage to a Chinese saying that describes Earth as “where the chapter of human life starts for our future generations, not where it ends,” according to a Blue Origin news release.
“Space exploration is the joint mission of all humankind, and the Sea of Stars is the future of our generation,” Sun wrote. “With the rapid development of commercial aerospace, entering space may become a dream that everyone can realize in their lifetime.”
His flight is “expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2022,” according to a website created for the campaign. Blue Origin said it’s one of six civilian trips planned next year.
Sun created Peiwo, a voice streaming app with millions of users. He later founded Tron, a blockchain platform that boasts tens of millions of users, and owns BitTorrent, a popular file-sharing service. In 2019, he made headlines with a $4.57 million donation to a homeless charity that won him a steak dinner with famed investor Warren Buffett.
Sun’s career took an unusual turn when he became the World Trade Organization ambassador for Grenada.
It’s unclear how Sun came to be associated with the Caribbean nation. In an open letter published by the Tron Foundation, Sun said he planned to “fight for the interests of developing countries, and promote the development of the blockchain industry and digital economy” before the WTO.
“The due recognition of the blockchain industry by sovereign states will be the final milestone towards achieving a [truly] decentralized financial infrastructure,” Sun wrote.
He plans to bring Grenada’s flag on his spaceflight, according to a statement from the company.