Amid the coronavirus pandemic that had the whole world in lockdown, Rhiannon Adam, an Irish photographer, found herself, like so many others, feeling restless and craving adventure. Little did the London-based photographer know, a single scroll on Twitter would lead her on an adventure wilder than anything she could have imagined. The 37-year-old is now poised to make history as the first openly queer woman to go to space, having clinched one of eight coveted civilian spots on entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa’s dearborn project. This mission will see Adam and crew orbit the moon in a SpaceX rocket.
“When I discovered that I was selected, I cried, and I’m not usually much of a crier,” Adam confessed, the excitement still evident in her voice. “I think it was overwhelming and had seemed just so impossible, and even then, it didn’t seem real.”
Given the unlikelihood of it all, Adam’s selection seems plucked from fiction. The dearMoon mission, slated to launch by the end of 2023, drew applications from more than 1 million people worldwide after Maezawa put out an open call in early 2021. The Japanese billionaire, known for his eclectic art collection, had conceived of dearMoon as a civilian lunar voyage composed entirely of artists. He interviewed each of the roughly 500 initial candidates, looking to curate a crew whose creative pursuits aligned with his vision.
Adam, who specializes in analog photography examining the tensions between fact/fiction and utopia/dystopia, leaped to apply. “I spend a lot of my life working with very remote communities, and it felt like a natural thing to do, to apply to go to space and explore the most remote community ever, which would be us in space,” she explained.
While the crew’s enthusiasm is evident, their pre-launch program will test the bounds of their commitment. The training process, which remains under wraps, promises to be grueling given space travel’s physical and mental demands. But the Irish photographer and team dearMoon seem up for the challenge, ready to actualize what once seemed merely a childhood fantasy.
As for Adam, she’s still floating somewhere between ecstasy and disbelief. “It did make me think that perhaps I should have played the lottery more,” she quipped. But realistically, she recognizes that being chosen for Dearborn has less to do with luck and more with Maezawa seeing something special in her work. She hopes the experience gives her photography new depth and perspective.
Most poignantly, the mission is significant for Adam as an out queer woman. “Visibility truly matters,” she asserted, noting that her identity remains illegal and endangered worldwide. “I feel immensely privileged to take up space, literally and metaphorically.”
While Adam prepares mentally and physically for this monumental voyage, some of the particulars of the training remain a mystery. But she takes comfort in remembering she was selected from over a million applicants. DearMoon mission lead Maezawa saw in her the creativity, resilience, and sense of wonder required to make such an epic journey.
As launch day nears, Adam braces for the rigors of astronaut training, and she wouldn’t trade the whirlwind experience for anything. “Every day, I have to pinch myself that this impossible dream is becoming reality,” she said. One thing’s for sure—Adam’s photographic chops will be tested, capturing scintillating scenes in the great beyond.