On December 7, 2019, Princess Cruises combined the christening of its newest vessel, Sky Princess, with a stirring tribute to the intrepid women of the U.S. Space Program. Two extraordinary women were given the title of ship’s godmother: Captain Kay Hire and Frances “Poppy” Northcutt, both NASA veterans whose work represents crowning achievements in science, research and technology.
Princess Cruises had chosen the theme of ‘Reach for the Sky’ for the momentous occasion, a notion which both of these women have embodied throughout their careers. As a mechanical systems engineer, Captain Hire helped to launch over 40 space missions; then, as an astronaut, she logged 700 hours in space, flying over 12 million miles and orbiting the Earth 475 times. She later served in the U.S. Navy where she became the first female officer assigned to a military combat flight crew.
Poppy Northcutt served as the female mission control engineer when NASA made its historic moon landing. And, when the astronauts of Apollo 13 became stranded in their service module, the calculations she and her team made were ultimately responsible for bringing the crew home safely—an act of heroism for which the entire mission operations team was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom Team Award.
Together, Captain Hire and Poppy Northcutt recited the traditional cruise-ship blessing prior to pressing a NASA- style “launch” button, which released and smashed a fifteen-liter bottle of champagne on the ship’s hull, officially naming Sky Princess.
“As we celebrate our newest, most technologically advanced ship—one whose spirit of adventure and discovery match the grandeur of her name, Sky Princess—we also applaud the groundbreaking women of the U.S. Space Program,” said Princess Cruises president, Jan Swartz. “Our godmothers, Captain Kay Hire and Poppy Northcutt, remind us all of what we can achieve when we reach for the sky.”
Several other female NASA professionals were also recognized for their unwavering determination to ‘Reach for the Sky’ through a tribute video presented during the celebration. They included:
— Dr. Mae Jemison, the first woman of color to travel to outer space
— Kathryn D. Sullivan, the first woman to join a spacewalk
— Dr. Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space, who also later became Director of the Johnson Space Center
— Eileen Collins, the first woman to command the Space Shuttle
— Peggy Whiston, the first woman to command the International Space Stations
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