July 24, 2024

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Astronauts confident Boeing space capsule can return them safely to Earth, despite failures

Astronauts confident Boeing space capsule can return them safely to Earth, despite failures

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Two astronauts who were supposed to return to Earth weeks ago said Wednesday they were confident the Boeing space capsule could get them back safely, despite malfunctions.

NASA test pilots Butch Wilmore and Sunny Williams It was launched. He was the first person to board Boeing’s new Starliner capsule early last month. Helium leaks and engine failures nearly derailed their journey. Access On the International Space Station, and kept them there much longer than planned.

In their first press conference from orbit, they said they expect to return once the thruster tests are complete here on Earth. They said they have no complaints about getting extra time in orbit and enjoy helping the station crew.

“I have a really good feeling in my heart that the spacecraft will bring us home, no problem,” Williams told reporters.

The test flight was scheduled to last eight days, ending on June 14.

NASA and Boeing are trying this week to replicate the propulsion problems that plagued Starliner in a brand-new module at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, one of the premier landing sites in the U.S. Western Desert. The problem lies with the propulsion system used to maneuver the spacecraft.

Five thrusters failed as the capsule approached the space station on June 6, a day after launch. Four have since been reactivated. Wilmore said there should be enough working engines to get him and Williams out of orbit. There are also larger engines that could replace the others if needed.

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“The mantra you’ve heard is that failure is not an option, and that’s why we’re here now,” Wilmore said. “We trust that the tests we’re running are the tests we need to get the right answers, and provide us with the data we need to come back.”

Boeing and NASA consider ground testing essential to determine what may have gone wrong, as that part of the capsule — the service module — is jettisoned before landing. Leaks are also found in this jettisonable section.

NASA ordered SpaceX’s Starliner and Dragon capsules a decade ago to fly astronauts to and from the space station, paying each company billions of dollars. SpaceX’s first astronaut taxi flight was in 2020. Boeing’s first crewed flight has been repeatedly delayed by software and other issues.


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