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NASA astronauts speak from Boeing starliner after being delayed on indefinite stay

NASA astronauts speak from Boeing starliner after being delayed on indefinite stay

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Louise Thomas

The two NASA astronauts temporarily stuck on the International Space Station owing to issues with their Boeing Starliner craft say they’re confident they’ll be able to return home, their first remarks to the press from aboard the station.

“I have a real good feeling in my heart that the spacecraft will bring us home with no problem,” said astronaut Butch Wilmore.

The Starliner mission, part of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) working with private companies to ferry NASA astronauts to the ISS, launched on June 5 and was originally scheduled to return to Earth later that month.

However, during the journey to the space station, the craft experienced helium leaks and thruster issues, temporarily delaying their return.

NASA and Boeing are currently doing tests related to the Starliner design at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The Boeing Starliner was meant to be a major milestone in the company’s battle with SpaceX for NASA business
The Boeing Starliner was meant to be a major milestone in the company’s battle with SpaceX for NASA business

“That mantra you’ve heard, failure is not an option, that’s why we are staying here now,” Wilmore added of the tests. “We trust that the tests that we’re doing are the ones we need to do to get the right answers, to give us the data that we need to come back.”

Boeing’s Mark Nappi said he believes the Starliner could return now in an emergency, but said, “We want to fill in the blanks and run this test to assure ourselves of that.”

Officials said the return date would depend on the data.

“Some of the data suggests optimistically, maybe it’s by the end of July, but we’ll just follow the data each step at a time,” Steve Stich of the CCP said Wednesday.

“We’re going to work methodically through our processes, including a return flight readiness review with the agency, before we get the go to proceed towards undocking and landing. This is a very standard process.”

The Starliner was meant to be a major milestone for Boeing in its competition with Elon Musk’s SpaceX for business with NASA.

The project was already years behind schedule and $1.5bn over budget when it launched, and the Starliner problems have added to Boeing’s other embarrassments in recent months with malfunctioning planes in its commercial aviation business and major questions from whistleblowers about its safety and quality assurance policies.


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