Boeing’s Starliner space capsule landed in the New Mexico desert Wednesday, completing a six-day mission in which it finally reached the International Space Station (ISS) and that could lead to flights with astronauts, reports the Washington Post.
Boeing’s Starliner capsule returns to Earth (Washington Post)
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Excerpt from the Washington Post: The capsule, without any crew on board, touched down as scheduled at 6:49 p.m. Eastern time at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico under a trio of parachutes. Air bags cushioned the landing. The landing was the last step of a crucial test for Boeing and NASA, which required the aerospace company to prove it could safely fly the vehicle to the station and back autonomously before allowing it to fly astronauts. "Just a beautiful touchdown in White Sands this evening," Lauren Seabrook, a Boeing spokesperson, said on the live broadcast.
According to Vox, this journey made history, as it marked the first time that a private American company not named SpaceX successfully reached the ISS. Boeing has spent the last several years trying to build a capsule that could transport humans to the space station. And it could do just that on its next mission, which is slated to happen later this year.
Why Boeing’s successful Starliner test is a big deal (Vox)
Excerpt from Vox: If Boeing is able to successfully recreate the mission with human passengers on board, it will become the second US spacecraft certified to carry astronauts to the ISS. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is the only other American spacecraft vehicle to have done so. Space is playing an increasingly active role in everyday life, whether that’s through the rise of space tourism or satellite internet. That makes this moment an important milestone for competition in the commercial space industry. It’s also a critical step forward for anyone worried that the future of space is already too dependent on a single company.
Shaped like a gumdrop, Boeing’s Starliner capsule was built in partnership with NASA in order to launch the agency’s astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which challenged private companies with creating space taxis to carry people to low Earth orbit, according to the Verge.
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft returns to Earth, wrapping up critical test mission (Verge)
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Excerpt from the Verge: With today’s landing, that uncrewed test flight — called OFT-2 — has come to an end, with Starliner performing every major step it was meant to accomplish. The capsule successfully launched to orbit on May 19th, riding to space on top of an Atlas V rocket; it approached and docked with the ISS on May 20th; and it undocked with the space station this afternoon before heading home. Throughout the mission, Starliner encountered a number of issues with its various thrusters. None of those problems proved to be fatal for the flight, though, and Starliner was able to complete OFT-2 as planned.
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