‘Stuck’ on ISS, two astronauts awaiting return to Earth are confident in Boeing spacecraft
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‘Stuck’ on ISS, two astronauts awaiting return to Earth are confident in Boeing spacecraft

They were supposed to be there for just over a week. But it has been more than a month since the two astronauts of Boeing’s first manned Starliner mission arrived at the International Space Station (ISS). Americans Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams are nevertheless confident that their vehicle will get them back to Earth, despite problems in flight and an unknown return date.

Problems with the capsule’s propulsion system as it approached the ISS forced NASA to delay its launch while it conducted tests. “I have a very good feeling that the spacecraft is going to get us home without any problems,” Suni Williams said during a press conference from space. “We’re having a great time here on the ISS,” she added. Butch Wilmore, for his part, praised the capabilities of the spacecraft, which he piloted manually on its way to the ISS, in particular its precision, even with some faulty engines.

videoBoeing Starliner Mission Astronauts Still on ISS Without Return Ticket

Some of them failed when the spacecraft docked with the station, and NASA has been trying to figure out why ever since — though it says the astronauts can use the capsule at any time to return to the station in an emergency. Nearly two weeks ago, NASA announced plans to ground test similar engines to better understand the cause of the problem. A press conference with NASA and Boeing officials is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, after the astronauts’ press conference?

Butch Wilmore: “That’s the nature of our work”

Butch Wilmore, a test pilot, put the challenges ahead in perspective: “This is a testing world. This is a tough industry,” he said. “Every spacecraft ever designed has had a lot of problems. It’s the nature of what we do.” The mission, completed by Boeing several years behind schedule, should allow Starliner to gain NASA certification and then begin regular space taxi operations for astronauts.

Meanwhile, NASA astronauts have been joining the ISS for four years now thanks to SpaceX ships. The American space agency, however, would like to have a second vehicle to better cope with possible problems on one of the capsules or emergency situations.

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