Reusable Starliner capsule lands, but questions loom

Space Science
Boeing Starliner

The Boeing Starliner capsule lands in the New Mexico desert Sunday morning. (NASA)

MYSTERY WIRE — The Boeing Starliner capsule landed early Sunday at White Sands, New Mexico, ending the mission early after a problem with a clock foiled its rendezvous with the International Space Station.

The mission marked an important milestone — the first vehicle capable of carrying a crew to orbit the Earth and return safely to the surface since 2011, when the space shuttle program ended.

But analysts will be evaluating the mission to decide the next step. Was the clock timing problem enough to force additional tests? Or is NASA ready to use the Boeing Starliner for flights carrying crews?

It’s a nervous time for Boeing, which has been competing with SpaceX to demonstrate the reliability of their private space programs. Neither company has shined, and NASA is about two years behind where it hoped to be in using the companies for transport and resupplying missions.

Now more tests could add additional delays. And NASA is clear: they will not rush the process.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was putting the best face possible on the situation, commenting Sunday on Starliner’s landing:

“It was an absolute bullseye, better than I think anybody anticipated,” Bridenstine said during a news conference. “That’s good for the agency, it’s good for Boeing; that’s good for the United States of America.”

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