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Business News/ Science / News/  Boeing Starliner astronauts Sunita Williams, Butch Wilmore stuck in space, return date delayed again: The story so far

Boeing Starliner astronauts Sunita Williams, Butch Wilmore stuck in space, return date delayed again: The story so far

According to NASA, the return of the spacecraft is possible only after a July 2 spacewalk.

Sunita Williams. (PTI)Premium
Sunita Williams. (PTI)

The return of spacecraft Boeing Starliner with its two astronauts - Sunita Williams and Butch Wilmore - to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) was postponed by NASA again to allow more time to review technical issues.

A new date for Boeing Starliner’s arrival on Earth has not been announced yet.

Earlier, the spacecraft’s return was set for June 26. Before that, the first potential date was June 14.

Williams and Wilmore were expected to return home after spending about a week in orbit.

Williams scripted history by becoming the first female astronaut to fly on the first flight of a crewed spacecraft.


Let's go, Calypso

The two astronauts had lifted off on June 5 as a final demonstration to obtain routine flight certification from NASA.

The first crewed test of the Starliner had encountered five failures of its 28 manoeuvring thrusters, leaks of helium gas, and a slow-moving propellant valve.

On June 7, Indian-origin American astronaut Sunita Williams broke into an impromptu dance as she entered the ISS.

She and her colleague Butch Wilmore received the ‘Bell Rings’ welcome.

Williams, 58, the pilot for the crewed test flight, flew to space for the third time aboard the Boeing Starliner spacecraft.

The Expedition 71 crew greeted Williams and Willmore aboard the ISS after Starliner docked at approximately 11:04 pm IST on June 7, about 26 hours after launching from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in the US.

“As part of @USNavy tradition for captains boarding a ship @NASA_Astronauts Butch Wilmore and @Astro_Suni each received bell rings as they came aboard @Space_Station," NASA had posted on X (formerly Twitter).

The Expedition 71 crew members gathered with Williams and Wilmore for a group photo aboard the space station.

“Let's go, Calypso," was the message Sunita radioed to mission control minutes before liftoff. The Starliner spacecraft is dubbed as Calypso.

Williams, popularly known as Suni in space circles, shared her gratitude to the family and friends who have been with them during the lead-up to the launch, NASA had said.

“We have another family up here, which is just awesome," Williams had said. “And we’re just happy as can be to be up in space, one in Starliner on an Atlas V, and then here at the International Space Station. It just doesn’t get much better."

The spacecraft had docked up to the ISS after overcoming new issues that cropped up during the flight.

On June 6, on the way to the ISS, Sunita Williams and Wilmore tested out a unique capability of the Starliner on orbit – manual piloting.

Although the spacecraft is usually autonomous, the crew used the hand controller to point and aim the spacecraft during about two hours of the flight.

According to NASA, the return of the spacecraft is possible only after a July 2 spacewalk.

“Mission managers are evaluating future return opportunities following the station’s two planned spacewalks on June 24 and July 2," NASA had said in a statement on June 21.

NASA officials had said that they wanted a better understanding of the cause of the thruster failures, valve issues and helium leaks before Starliner started its roughly six-hour return journey.

About Sunita Williams

Williams, from Needham, Massachusetts, was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy from the United States Naval Academy in May 1987. She was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1998.

During a 2013 press conference in New Delhi, Williams had said that during her space missions she carries with her the ‘Bhagavad Gita’ and ‘samosas’.

Williams’ mother Bonnie Pandya had told NBC News hours before liftoff that her daughter was in good spirits and was “so happy about going".


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Published: 25 Jun 2024, 07:04 PM IST
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