Astronauts Stuck in Space as Boeing Races to Fix Issues

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On June 6th, Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft carried two astronauts to the International Space Station. It was supposed to be a high mark, after months of controversy surrounding the company – not to mention delays and budget overruns with the spacecraft.

However, celebrations will have to wait. The two astronauts – veterans Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore are now stuck on the ISS as engineers on the ground scramble to learn more about issues plaguing the spacecraft.

The Starliner mission was only supposed to last a week. But troubles the vehicle experienced en route to space, including helium leaks and thrusters that abruptly stopped working, have caused NASA to stop and halt a return to earth for the time being.

Williams and Wilmore will now stay in space until at least June 26, NASA announced Tuesday.

Officials have said there is no reason to believe Starliner won’t be able to bring the astronauts back home, though “we really want to work through the remainder of the data,” said Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager.

Meanwhile, Boeing is trying, although not so successfully, to frame the mission as a success and learning opportunity. Mark Nappi, Boeing’s vice president and program manager of the Starliner program, describing the issues as simply “unplanned”.

It’s not uncommon for astronauts to unexpectedly extend their stay aboard the space station — for days, weeks or even months. (NASA has also said the Starliner can spend up to 45 days at the orbiting laboratory if needed, according to Stich.)

The International Space Station, hypothetically, could host the astronauts for months in case of an emergency, while NASA worked out a rescue mission. While at this time, no one has expressed concern for the astronauts well being, the incident is surely an embarrassment for Boeing, and another item on a long list of issues for the pivotal US company.



  1. The alternative return options are limited.
    We aren’t riding Soyuz right now if we can avoid it because sanctions.
    I believe the ESA isn’t really launching not because their engines are imported from Russia and are no longer available, aside from the fact that they don’t have a crew rated capsule.
    If the starliner can’t be reliably repaired in time because Boeing, then I believe the only other option would be to send up a crew dragon capsule from spacex.
    I don’t believe the Shenzou is rated or available to dock with ISS and new Shepard is only a suborbital platform.


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