Stranded Astronauts On ISS Still 'Confident' In Issue-Plagued Boeing Starliner

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Jul 10, 2024 - 11:20 PM

Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sunita Williams have been living on the International Space Station (ISS) for over a month after their Boeing Starliner spacecraft encountered a series of technical issues, including helium leaks and a thruster malfunction.

Wilmore and Williams blasted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force on June 5 and docked with the ISS one day later. Both astronauts were expected to spend just a week aboard the ISS and return to Earth by June 14.

However, five separate helium leaks in the Starliner's thruster system and five failures of its reaction control system thrusters, critical systems for safely orienting the spacecraft into Earth's atmosphere, were detected. These unresolved problems have stranded both astronauts on the ISS ever since.

On Wednesday, Sunita Williams, 58, a former Navy service member, told reporters via a remote video link, "I feel confident that if we had to — if there was a problem with the International Space Station — we'd get in our spacecraft and we can undock, talk to our team and figure out the best way to come home." 

Williams added, "I have a real good feeling in my heart that the spacecraft will bring us home, no problem."

"We're absolutely confident," flight commander Wilmore, 61, a former Navy captain, told reporters. He said the "Safe Haven procedure" with Williams had already been conducted inside the Starliner in the event of an ISS incident. 

Williams noted, "We've been through a lot of simulations...and I think where we are right now…I feel confident that if we had to, if there was a problem with the International Space Station, we could get in our spacecraft, we could undock, talk to our team and, and figure out the best way to come home." 

Wilmore and Williams are considered the 'guinea pig' test pilots for Starliner's inaugural ISS mission. There was recent news from Boeing that teams at NASA's White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico were conducting simulated ground-based thruster tests. 

"This testing is trying to replicate what the worst-case thruster saw inflight," Mark Nappi, Boeing's vice president of its Commercial Crew Program, told reporters. 

Based on the engineers' findings from the test, NASA and Boeing will determine the next step for Starliner. 

Wouldn't that be something if Elon Musk's SpaceX was called up to emergency deploy a Dragon capsule to rescue the stranded astronauts?