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Space contest to send LGBT+ astronaut where no queer has gone before

Reiss Smith June 24, 2019
Sally Ride on the space shuttle Challenger

Sally Ride was the first known queer person in space, but she didn't come out during her lifetime. (NASA)

Wannabe LGBT+ astronauts are being encouraged to apply for a new contest which aims to send the first openly queer person into space.

In almost six decades of space travel more than 500 people have been into outer space—none of whom have been openly LGBT+.

The Out Astronaut Contest is aiming to change that by sending a young queer astronaut into orbit.

“We believe that communities are empowered when they are represented,” said the contest’s organisers, Stardom Space and Project PoSSUM (Polar Suboribital Science in the Upper Mesosphere).

“Our goal is to train and fly a member of the LGBT+ community as a scientist-astronaut.”

LGBT+ astronaut would serve as ambassador

The chosen astronaut would serve as “an ambassador” to the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries, according to the contest website.

It states that currently, more than 40 percent of LGBT+ people in STEM are not out, with queer students less likely to follow academic careers than their straight peers.

“Astronauts inspire our youth, represent limitless possibilities, and serve as ambassadors to STEM,” Out Astronaut said.

“Astronauts inspire our youth and represent limitless possibilities.”

—Out Astronaut

The contest is in its first phase, with applications open to scientists or students aged 18- to 39-years-old who are residents of the US, Canada, Mexco, the Caribbean or Central America.

After applications close on July 15, 12 finalists will be chosen and put forward for a social media vote.

The final winner will be chosen by Out Astronaut and announced on September 8. They will receive a full scholarship to attend the Advanced PoSSUM Academy, with lodging and a round-flight trip included.

Out Astronaut is currently seeking funding for the second page of the project–which would see the top four contestants attend a year-long applied astronautics programme, and a third and final phase which would send one LGBT+ scientist into space.

Who was the first gay astronaut?

While there have been no openly LGBT+ astronauts up until now, one notable space explorer was revealed to have been queer following her death.

Sally Ride became the United States’ first woman in space on June 18, 1983, but kept her sexuality private until her death in 2012.

Sally Ride
Sally Ride’s family confirmed that she was in a same-sex relationship after her death. (NASA)

Her obituary stated that she was survived  by Tam O’Shaughnessy, her “partner of 27 years.”

Her sister Bear Ride, who identifies as gay, told Buzzfeed that she hoped Ride’s posthumous coming out “makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them.”

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