Cork-born woman chosen for world’s first civilian trip to the moon

9 Dec 2022

Rhiannon Adam. Image: DearMoon

Rhiannon Adam and seven other applicants could become the first private citizens to travel to the moon next year.

An Irish photographer has beaten a million applicants to be selected for a private spaceflight to the moon.

Rhiannon Adam is among eight artists and creatives selected to join the DearMoon space mission. The crew was selected by Japanese billionaire and art collector Yusaku Maezawa, also known as MZ.

The starship the crew will travel on is being developed by SpaceX, the company founded and owned by billionaire Elon Musk.

In 2018, Maezawa purchased all the seats aboard the SpaceX rocket that is due to take off next year. In 2021, he issued a public call to find a crew to join him on the space voyage, which is expected to take about a week.

Maezawa said the eight crew members and two backup members were chosen after a strict screening process, which included medical checks and various interviews. He also said the crew are all “fantastic people”.

“I had deep conversations with each candidate, asking them about their childhood, why they are dreaming about going to space, what kind of challenges they would like to undertake,” Maezawa said.

“They will gain a lot from this experience, and I hope they will use that to contribute to the planet, to humanity.”

If the mission goes ahead, Adam will become the first Irish woman to orbit the moon, as well as the first openly queer woman to go to space. (Last year, Twitch streamer Cameron Bess became the first openly queer person to journey to space aboard one of the New Shepard sub-orbital spaceflights from Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, kept quiet about her sexuality until her death in 2012.)

Adam was born in Cork in 1985, travelling with her parents on a live-aboard sailing boat from 1992 until she eventually moved to London with her aunt as a teenager.

She currently lives and works as a photographic artist between the UK and the US, working on research-based, long-form social documentary projects.

Adam’s early life experiences travelling from place to place has had a lasting influence on her work, with a focus on remote communities and the concept of utopia. She is also the author of three books and her work has been published by various media outlets including Le Monde, the BBC, The British Journal of Photography, Huffington Post and The New York Times.

Adam said being chosen for the DearMoon mission seems like “an impossible dream coming true”. She added that she plans to create work that “does justice to this transformative experience”.

“When I discovered that I was selected, I cried,” Adam said. “And I’m not usually much of a crier. I think it was overwhelming and had seemed just so impossible, and even then, it didn’t seem real.

“It did make me think that perhaps I should have played the lottery more,” she added.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic