Featured Image - Left to Right: NASA Astronaut Shannon Walker & NASA Astronaut Megan McArthur / Source: SpaceX
SpaceX renamed a pair of sea-going recovery ships in honor of first female NASA astronauts launched aboard Crew Dragon. The GO Navigator ship was renamed ‘Shannon’ after SpaceX Crew-1 astronaut Shannon Walker and the GO Searcher ship was renamed ‘Megan’ after SpaceX Crew-2 astronaut Megan McArthur, pictured below. The company utilizes the twin ships to recover the Dragon spacecraft as soon as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere and conducts a parachute-assisted splashdown in the ocean. SpaceX recovery teams sail to fish-out Dragon out of the salty water. It is lifted on-board with a large lifting frame installed on the ship. When a Crew Dragon carrying crew is recovered, teams help the astronauts out of the capsule and perform initial medical check-ups. The ships have an on-board medical treatment unit to ensure astronaut health when they return from the International Space Station (ISS). The ships are even equipped with a helicopter pad that is useful to quickly transport the astronauts or cargo when needed. NASA requires SpaceX to recover the spacecraft as quickly as possible to ensure astronaut safety and minimize the effects of gravity affecting the results of critical science research performed in microgravity. The crew and cargo then gets transported to nearby facilities.
The vessel names on SpaceX's two Dragon recovery ships have been painted over.— Gav Cornwell 🚢🚀 (@SpaceOffshore) February 5, 2022
I checked USCG databases and can confirm that GO Searcher and GO Navigator are being renamed to Megan and Shannon respectively, in honor of SpaceX's first two female Astronauts. @NASASpaceflight pic.twitter.com/KGQaZ7aEJn
NASA Astronaut Shannon Walker is the first female to ever ride a SpaceX Crew Dragon during the first operational flight to the ISS under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, known as the Crew-1 mission. Crew-1 took place from November 15, 2020 to May 2, 2021. Walker is a flight engineer from Houston, Texas. She is a veteran astronaut who previously launched to ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz and served as pilot during the Expedition 24/25 mission that took place from June 15 through November 25, 2010. Astronaut Walker has performed three spacewalks, including one where she was brave enough to remove and replace a failed pump module outside the Space Station.
NASA Astronaut Megan McArthur was part of SpaceX’s second operational mission to the ISS, Crew-2, which took place from April 23, 2021 to November 8, 2021. She is a flight engineer from Honolulu, Hawaii, and now considers California her home. The Crew-2 mission was her second trip to space but her first time working at the Space Station. McArthur became an astronaut in 2000 and launched on Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2009 during STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. She spent a total of 12 days and 21 hours in space working on the telescope using the Shuttle’s robotic arm. During the Crew-2 mission she served as SpaceX Crew Dragon pilot and completed 199 days working at the ISS as an Expedition 65/66 crewmember.
The GO Navigator and GO Searcher vessels' name change comes around six months after SpaceX bought two more ships and named them ‘Bob’ and ‘Doug’ in honor of the first people SpaceX launched into space in May 2020 – NASA astronauts Robert ‘Bob’ Behnken and Douglas ‘Doug’ Hurley. They launched to ISS as part of the Demo-2 mission that certified that Dragon is able to carry out safe human spaceflight. They are the pioneers who made history as the first to launch to space from American soil after roughly a decade of NASA launching astronauts aboard Russian spacecraft. SpaceX returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States.
Image Source: NASA/Cory Huston