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Boeing Starliner astronauts stuck at International Space Station as engineers on Earth race


Boeing, we have a problem.

The return trip to Earth for two NASA astronauts who rode to orbit on the trouble-plagued company’s Starliner has been delayed for a third time as of Saturday — with Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams cooling their heels at the International Space Station (ISS) while engineers on the ground race against time to fix numerous issues with the spacecraft.

They have a reported 45-day window to bring them back, according to officials.

The return trip to Earth for two NASA astronauts who rode to orbit on the trouble-plagued company’s Starliner has been delayed for a third time as of Saturday. AP

The return module of the Starliner spacecraft is docked to the ISS’s Harmony module, but Harmony has limited fuel leaving the window for a safe return flight increasingly narrow, officials said.

Wilmore and Williams were supposed to come home June 13 after a week on the ISS.

But because of problems that include five helium leaks on the Starliner, they’re still up there.

The issues with the Starliner included five thrusters that abruptly stopped working during flight and a series of helium leaks, CNN reported.

Posters on X went to town on Boeing, calling on Elon Musk to rescue the astronauts with one of his Space X Dragon spacecraft.

“How terribly dangerous is Boeing’s Starliner? May need Space X to rescue its astronauts from ISS,” wrote someone with the X handle @NONbiasedly.

“Boeing Starliner literally falling apart in space right now,” wrote Captain Coronado.

They have a reported 45-day window to bring them back, according to officials. AFP via Getty Images

“Deathtrap nearly killed the two astronauts during takeoff and trip to the ISS. Mismanagement at Boeing proving extremely dangerous!!”

Others felt the situation was not as serious as it seemed.

Space expert Jonathan McDowell told The Post the situation may not seem as perilous as some believe.

“You can lose a few thrusters and still be OK because there are many of them but still this is the propulsion system and you want to understand everything that’s going on,” he said.

“They want to be sure these smaller issues aren’t masking bigger ones.”

The issues with the Starliner included five thrusters that abruptly stopped working during flight and a series of helium leaks, CNN reported. Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Technologies/AFP via Getty Images

McDowell said in a worst case scenario, the astronauts will have to wait until Musk’s Dragon spacecraft makes its scheduled trip up to ISS in August.

After years of delays and being halted once at the last minute, Boeing’s Starliner capsule finally blasted off its first manned flight from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on June 5.

During the 25-hour flight, however, engineers found hardware issues including five separate helium leaks involving the crafts’ thrusters that are part of the Starliner’s propulsion system and five thruster failures in its reaction-control system.

“We’ve learned that our helium system is not performing as designed,” Mark Nappi, Boeing’s Starliner program manager, said Tuesday.

“Albeit manageable, it’s still not working like we designed it. So we’ve got to go figure that out.”

Engineers are not sure what caused the problems.



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