Skip to main content

Boeing Starliner astronauts ‘are not stranded’ in orbit, NASA insists

Boeing Space's Starliner docked at the International Space Station in June 2024.
Boeing Space’s Starliner docked at the International Space Station in June 2024. NASA

NASA has insisted that its two Starliner astronauts are not stranded in orbit as it continues to investigate issues with the thrusters on the spacecraft. which is currently docked at the International Space Station (ISS).

The Starliner brought NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore to the ISS on June 6 in what was the first crewed trip for the vehicle. But on the final approach to the orbital outpost, it became apparent that five of the Starliner’s thrusters were not functioning in the correct way.

The thrusters serve to maintain the appropriate orientation of the crew capsule and will be vital for guiding the Starliner toward its reentry into Earth’s atmosphere when the vehicle finally returns home. The agency has also been investigating five helium leaks that occurred on the Starliner during its journey to the ISS.

In a media conference streamed online on Friday, 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.”

Stich said the plan is to bring the two astronauts back to Earth on the Starliner and that there was no rush to get the pair home.

The original mission would’ve seen Williams and Wilmore spend about a week aboard the station, but their time in orbit is now approaching the four-week mark with no target date announced for their return.

In a worst-case scenario, if engineers deem the condition of the Starliner too risky for the astronauts to travel in, it’s possible Williams and Wilmore could hitch a ride home on a docked Crew Dragon spacecraft operated by SpaceX. Alternatively, they could wait for a SpaceX Crew Dragon to be prepped and sent for them in a similar way to how a NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and two cosmonauts waited for a Russian Soyuz spacecraft after the one they traveled in suffered damage while docked at the station.

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
NASA astronauts send a Fourth of July message from space
NASA astronauts on the ISS send a Fourth of July message.

NASA astronauts on the International Space Station sent a Fourth of July video message. NASA

Plenty of people who are away from home or traveling far from their loved ones will be sending messages today -- but here's one message that comes from a very distant outpost. The NASA astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS), zipping around the Earth in low-Earth orbit approximately 250 miles above the planet's surface have sent a Fourth of July message to those down on the ground:

Read more
NASA’s Mars Odyssey Orbiter just reached a major milestone
NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter.

NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter NASA

NASA’s Mars Odyssey Orbiter is one of seven currently circling the red planet (three of them belonging to NASA), capturing imagery and performing tasks from way up to help scientists learn more about the fourth planet from the sun.

Read more
Mushroom houses: NASA wants to grow its own Mars habitats from fungi
A stool constructed out of mycelia after two weeks of growth. The next step is a baking process process that leads to a clean and functional piece of furniture.

Bricks produced using mycelium, yard waste, and wood chips as a part of the myco-architecture project. Similar materials could be used to build habitats on the Moon or Mars. NASA

When future astronauts set out for the moon or for Mars, they'll need some shelter. And while you might imagine cities on other planets being made of steel, or glass, or some high-tech carbon fiber compound, NASA has other ideas. The agency is funding research into growing their own habitats out of fungi.

Read more