An Irish photographic artist has been selected to travel around the moon as part of an upcoming private spaceflight project.
Cork-born Rhiannon Adam, 37, who lives and works between London and the US, was announced as one of nine astronauts of the dearMoon project, beating hundreds of thousands of applicants from 249 countries.
The dearMoon project, a lunar mission and art project conceived and financed by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, will see eight members of the public join Mr Maezawa onboard a SpaceX craft to fly around the far side of the moon before returning to earth. Two backup crew members have also been selected.
All of those chosen for the trip are artists and creatives, and Maezawa has said he expects the experience of space tourism and leaving the earth to inspire the accompanying passengers in the creation of their art. Works inspired by the trip will then exhibited by those involved after they have returned home.
The trip is expected to launch in 2023 and take seven days in total.
Ms Adam said she applied to join projectMoon during the Covid-19 pandemic because she was "craving an adventure".
“In the middle of the pandemic, we were, of course, all grounded, which was incredibly frustrating for me as I felt that I’d lost my purpose. But then, while idly scrolling Twitter, I came across dearMoon, and it seemed like the most epic, and life-changing adventure," she said.
"I spent a lot of my life working with very remote communities, so it felt like a natural thing to do to apply to go to space and explore the most remote community ever - us in space."
She said she "cried with excitement" when Mr Maezawa confirmed that she had been chosen.
"When I found out that this crew announcement was going to happen my first thought was: fear.
"I really value my anonymity and I've never been an attention-seeker. I like to hide behind my work," she said.
"So I think my greatest fear was the process of all of this, the life change that that implies.
Ms Adam said she believes the mission will bring about many changes in her life, both personally and professionally.
The ship on which Rhiannon and her fellow astronauts will travel is currently being built by SpaceX, a company founded and owned by billionaire Elon Musk.
To date, a handful of early prototype ships have conducted brief “hop tests" and flown a few kilometres above the earth.
The company has not yet announced when the 50-metre long projectMoon Starship, expected to be propelled into space by a 69-metre rocket booster, will be completed.
Earlier this year, Mr Musk said the first official test of the craft would be ready to take place "soon" but that his company was awaiting a launch license from US federal regulators.
If early test flights of the projectMoon craft are successful, Rhiannon, Maezawa and the rest of the crew could be the first group of private citizens to venture beyond low-Earth orbit.