No, this isn’t about spaceships – well, sort of…
Most of the surface of the world is covered in water, this remains true whether you believe in a flat Earth or a slightly more realistic round Earth. Regardless of your viewpoint, many spacecraft are launched beyond our atmosphere, a feat that requires a lot of resources and funding. In order to preserve some of those resources, the company SpaceX has developed spacecraft that are able to re-use some parts, notably spacecraft fairings.
During a space launch, these fairings fall from the ascending spacecraft, and due to most of the planet being covered in water, these tend to fall in the ocean. Unfortunately, the water in the oceans of the world are salty and this can cause issues with sophisticated space equipment, so the SpaceX team came up with the idea of catching the fairings as they fall towards the ocean.
In order to accomplish the feat of catching a 13+ metre-long piece of rapidly falling metal, SpaceX acquired a pair of fast crew ships and fitted them with some specialized equipment to facilitate the catching.
The pair of vessels were both laid-down in 2014 and were used for three years as off-shore oil rig crew runners before being acquired by SpaceX. Once they were purchased by SpaceX the innocuous vessels were fitted with extensible boom arms between which a massive net could be spanned. With the new mission and equipment, the vessels were renamed the Ms. Tree and the Ms. Chief, both wordplays, Mystery and Mischief respectively.
Both of the ships have a spotty record of actually catching the falling fairing, but each time that they do it prevents seawater corrosion of the expensive resource. All photo credits Greg Scott Photo and SpaceX.
Oh, the Ms. Tree has a Twitter account, if you wanted to stay current on all of its fairing-catching updates:
I can catch that 😄 pic.twitter.com/ExhANjXWTH— Ms. Tree (@FairingCatcher) May 2, 2018
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