From Space to Sea: Cruise Ship 'Viking Orion' Honors Retired Astronaut Anna Fisher

Celebrating ship naming
Retired NASA astronaut Anna Fisher, Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, Viking Cruises founder Torstein Hagen, Viking senior vice president Karine Hagen and Viking Orion captain Anders Steen celebrate the ship's official naming in Livorno, Italy, on June 14, 2018. (Image credit: Viking Cruises)

PORTOFINO, Italy — Combining Nordic culture and space travel, Viking Cruises officially welcomed its fifth ocean ship, Viking Orion — named after the prominent constellation and in honor of retired NASA astronaut Anna Fisher. 

The official naming ceremony of Viking Orion took place yesterday (June 14) in Livorno, Italy. The ship is named after Orion the Hunter and in recognition of NASA's Orion spacecraft — the first crewed capsule designed to carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit, and the last project Fisher worked on before she retired in May 2017.

Anna Fisher used a historic Viking broadax to cut a ribbon during the naming ceremony for Viking Cruise's ship, the Viking Orion, on June 14, 2018. (Image credit: Viking Cruises)

Fisher was the first mother in space and among the original six female astronaut candidates selected for NASA's first class of space shuttle astronauts in January 1978. She was assigned to her first flight only two weeks before she delivered her oldest daughter. A few short months later, she flew as a mission specialist on the second flight of the space shuttle Discovery, STS-51A, in November 1984. [Cruising Constellations: Sailing the Maiden Voyage of 'Viking Orion']

After logging a total of 192 hours in space on her first Discovery flight, Fisher served NASA in many other roles, including her work on the Orion spacecraft, which will fly beyond low Earth orbit to explore deep space.

Torstein Hagen, Anna Fisher, Liberio Andreatta and Karine Hagen celebrate the Viking Orion's maiden voyage. Fisher brought astronaut flight jackets. (Image credit: Viking Cruises)

During the ceremony, Fisher was named the ceremonial godmother of Viking Orion and offered her blessing of good fortune and safe sailing — a naval tradition that dates back thousands of years. Fisher used a historic Viking broadax to cut a ribbon during the christening, signifying the ship is ready to set sail. 

"Vikings consider themselves good explorers — we have been exploring the seas and oceans … but we thought we should have help from somebody who could explore the universe," Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking, said during the ceremony. "So, we have as our godmother, Dr. Anna Fisher." 

As part of the official naming ceremony, Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, who reports to the cardinal vicar of the pope, blessed the ship. During the ship's float-out ceremony in September 2017, the Rev. Dino Cecconi, the chaplain of the Port of Ancona, also blessed the ship. 

Retired NASA astronaut Anna Fisher kicked off an official naming ceremony for Viking Cruise's new ship, the Viking Orion, on June 14, 2018, in Livorno, Italy. (Image credit: Viking Cruises)

"It is such an honor to be here today," Fisher said during the ceremony. "One of the things that really impressed me today is how similar the space business is to what [Viking does] here. The attention to detail; to safety — to making everything perfect."

Fisher invited her family, friends and colleagues to the naming ceremony onboard the Viking Orion.

The Viking Orion set sail after its naming ceremony on June 14, 2018, and headed to Portofino, Italy. (Image credit: Viking Cruises)

Fisher presented Hagen and Karine Hagen, Viking senior vice president, with official NASA astronaut flight jackets, which were adorned with mission patches from many of her colleagues at the naming ceremony. Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the Orion spacecraft, also gave the ship a gift in recognition of the connection between NASA's mission and the ship's namesake."At the float-out ceremony, I was incredibly moved because, for those of my astronaut friends here, it reminded me very much of a rollout of a shuttle orbiter — the people in the shipyard were ever as protective of this amazing ship," Fisher said. 

The official naming of the ship featured a fantastic display of Orion mythology, Norwegian musicians and a man flying a jetpack around the ship to deliver the ceremonial Viking broadax. The evening ended with a fireworks display before the ship set sail for Portofino. 

You can follow live updates of Viking Orion's maiden voyage here

Editor's Note: Samantha Mathewson is traveling on an invitation from Viking as part of an unpaid media preview event for Viking Orion.

Follow Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. Follow us @Spacedotcom,Facebook and Google+. Original article on

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.