An architect trained in Yale spent the first half of the 1990s in Berlin and Tokyo. Then her career took an unexpected turn – into space.
In 1995, she visited the Johnson Space Center of the US Aerospace Authority in Houston. During her tour, "a calm voice said that one day we would go to Mars," she later told Harvard Magazine. "Of course I submitted my CV."
She worked for Lockheed Martin Corp. and other contractors and spent more than a decade on NASA projects, including the design of TransHab, an inflatable aircraft that could be used to transport astronauts to Mars or houses at a space station. As an architect who worked with engineers, she insisted that long-term space dwellings not only needed to be safe and efficient, but comfortable enough to keep astronauts from going crazy. TransHab had private crew quarters and blankets high enough to allow tall astronauts to walk on treadmills.
NASA put the project on hold, but Ms. Adams insisted on a possible Mars mission and believed that the technology could also be applied to life in harsh environments on Earth
Ms. Adams died of colon cancer in their Houston home in late June. She was 53 years old.
TransHab is a three-story habitat housing six people that can be pressed into a cylinder to be fired and inflated in space. Ms. Adams and her colleagues attempted to help astronauts maintain a calming, earth-like sensation of ups and downs in an environment of negligible gravity.
"They take gravity out of the equation and everything becomes kablloey," National Geographic quoted them. "We need to help our astronauts behave as if things were normal."
Constance Marguerite DuQuesnay Adams was born on July 1
Her family often traveled in Europe and remembered watching the Apollo 11 moon landing on a hotel TV in Hungary. "All these people came to see this event with the Americans," she told Metropolis magazine. "Apparently, there was this voice in Hungarian, which said that it was just a movie made in Hollywood and that the Americans had not landed on the moon and people looked at us apologetically."
At Harvard University she majored in Social Studies and wrote a thesis on a Modernist Architectural Manifesto headed by Le Corbusier. She also designed an ivory tower built at Harvard Yard to protest the University of South Africa's investments during apartheid.
After studying architecture in Yale, she worked on skyscraper designs in Japan and urban planning in Berlin. 19659003] At NASA, she worked on BIO-Plex, a plant growth chamber and water purification technology. She also worked in connection with the Space Shuttle program and the International Space Station.
She later founded a consulting firm, Synthesis International, and helped Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic Design build a terminal that could one day welcome space tourists to Spaceport America New Mexico. She also taught space architecture in Yale, the University of Hong Kong and the University of Houston.
Her 2014 Dodge Challenger Muscle Car was red and came with a stick-shift. "It sounded like a plane taking off," said Damon Silvers, a friend since Harvard.
Ms. Adams leaves behind two daughters, a brother, her stepmother and her mother, Madeleine de Jean, who writes about champagne and other topics
. Adams often lamented the decline in US spending on space exploration. "No nation in Earth's history has failed to do great projects, and it has remained significant," she said in a 2011 TEDx conversation.
She also viewed technological challenges as a fundamental human need. "We're this crazy creature," she told Dallas Morning News 2011. "We have to do things, and we have to do things with the things we do, and … when you start to see the things we do jump off the planet, do you think maybe nature's the plan to see our other worlds, I can not imagine being so close to going into another world and not doing it. " Write to James R. Hagerty at [email protected]