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NASA Experts Refute Claims That Starliner Astronauts Are ‘Stranded’ in Space

*NASA downplayed reports that two astronauts are stuck in space after experiencing issues with Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. 

CNN reports that the Starliner transported NASA astronauts to the International Space Station but is encountering delays and technical challenges. The astronauts piloting this test flight will remain on the station longer as engineers on the ground address issues.

According to reports, NASA and Boeing launched the Starliner despite a known helium leak, initially downplaying its significance. Once they got in orbit, they discovered four more helium leaks and one unstable thruster. Now, spaceflight veterans Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore are stranded at the International Space Station due to a series of complications stemming from this issue.

Williams and Wilmore arrived at the space station aboard the Starliner on June 6 and were projected to return by June 26. Now, they have an unplanned 90-day extended stay.

There are concerns that Starliner may be unable to return the NASA astronauts safely. The crew reportedly has only 43 days left before their oxygen runs out and rescue becomes critical.

Meanwhile, officials said there is no reason to believe Starliner won’t be able to bring the astronauts back home.

In a media conference, Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said: “I want to make it very clear that Butch and Suni are not stranded in space.”

Williams and Wilmore have spent nearly four weeks in space, and no target date for their return has been announced. In a worst-case scenario, they might return home aboard a docked SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Alternatively, they could await the preparation and dispatch of a dedicated SpaceX Crew Dragon mission to retrieve them.

“We’re not going to target a specific date until we get that testing completed,” said Stich, per PEOPLE.

“I think we’re on a good path,” he added.

Boeing program manager Mark Nappi said, “… we can return with Starliner at any time.”

“We understand these issues for safe return,” said Nappi, per ABC News. “We don’t understand these issues well enough to fix them permanently.”

Nappi said it has been “pretty painful to read the things that are out there” about the two astronauts. 

“We’re not stuck on [the] ISS,” Nappi explained. “The crew is not in any danger, and there’s no increased risk when we decide to bring Suni and Butch back to Earth.”


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