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Business News/ Science / News/  Sunita Williams's first message after delay in Boeing Starliner's return from space: ‘I have a real good feeling…’
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Sunita Williams's first message after delay in Boeing Starliner's return from space: ‘I have a real good feeling…’

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, on Wednesday, addressed a video conference from space for the first time after her spacecraft Boeing Starliner docked at ISS.

Astronauts Sunita Williams and Butch Wilmore ahead of an inaugural crewed test flight of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station. In a video conference from ISS, Williams expressed hope for the safe return of Boeing Starliner (PTI)Premium
Astronauts Sunita Williams and Butch Wilmore ahead of an inaugural crewed test flight of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station. In a video conference from ISS, Williams expressed hope for the safe return of Boeing Starliner (PTI)

Indian-born NASA astronaut Sunita Williams expressed confidence in her return flight from space on Wednesday. Williams's message from space comes days after the US space agency hinted at a possible extension of the Boeing Starliner's space mission by 45 to 90 days.

"I have a real good feeling in my heart that this spacecraft will bring us home, no problem," NASA astronaut Sunita "Suni" Williams said during a live news conference from the International Space Station (ISS). This was the test crew's first news conference since docking with the ISS over a month ago.

Underlining that ‘failure is not an option’, NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore said that the sole intention behind staying at ISS is to test the spacecraft. Wilmore and Williams were launched aboard Starliner from Florida on June 5 and docked the next day at the ISS.

"We're absolutely confident," Wilmore told reporters. “That mantra you've heard, failure is not an option."

"And that's why we're staying, because we're going to test it. That's what we do," Reuters quoted Wilmor as saying. During his conference, he acknowledged that an ongoing investigation by the U.S. space agency and Boeing involving thruster tests on Earth is key for their return.

Issues with Boeing Starliner

Boeing Starliner's first mission to space is grappling with several technical issues, such as helium leaks. The launch was delayed more than four times in May and June.

According to Reuters, five of Starliner's 28 manoeuvring thrusters stopped functioning properly after the spacecraft's trek to the station. Helium gas is used to pressurise the thrusters. The leak resulted from a fault in the propellant valve, which did not close properly.

The success of the test mission would enable Boeing to bring more spacecraft for routine astronaut flights. As of now, Elon Musk's SpaceX is the only US company which is able to utilise its spacecraft in human flights. So far, SpaceX's Crew Dragon has dominated the nascent human spaceflight market amid Starliner's development delays.

At the same time, an investigation at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama aims to determine why a type of seal in Starliner's propulsion system has let helium leak out.

The return of Wilmore and Williams to Earth on Starliner depends on the results of the thruster tests, according to NASA officials.

NASA's commercial crew chief Steve Stich told reporters on Wednesday that "we're taking our time" with the testing and that the results of the New Mexico thruster tests “are not quite what we would have hoped for."

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Published: 11 Jul 2024, 08:35 AM IST
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