Science & Tech

Astronauts stuck in ISS as engineers race to save them

Astronauts stuck in ISS as engineers race to save them
Boeing Starliner crew aboard ISS after challenging docking
FMM - F24 Video Clips / VideoElephant

Experts are rushing to save astronauts stuck in the International Space Station after multiple problems mean they cannot return to Earth.

Over the years, the International Space Station, which orbits the Earth every 90 minutes, has hosted astronauts from around the world.

But for two American NASA astronauts who travelled to the ISS on 5 June onboard Boeing’s Starliner, the journey back to Earth has been delayed for a third time due to several issues with the spacecraft.

Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams are currently waiting onboard the ISS while the return module of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft remains docked to the ISS’s Harmony module.

Engineers are believed to have had a 45-day window in which to bring the astronauts home, due to Harmony having limited fuel.

Wilmore and Williams had been due to leave for Earth on 13 June, following a week onboard the ISS. However, issues with the Boeing return module mean their trip has been unexpectedly extended and they remain in space.

According to CNN, there are “a series” of helium leaks and issues with five of the Starliner’s thrusters that stopped working during the journey.

Some have pointed out that it is latest in a long line of issues that Boeing has had with its technology after whistleblower John Barnett alleged safety problems with its aircraft.

It is not thought that the crews will come before July, as engineers race to fix the problems with the vessel.

In a statement, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, Steve Stich, said: “We are taking our time and following our standard mission management team process... We are letting the data drive our decision making relative to managing the small helium system leaks and thruster performance.”

At a news conference, he stressed that engineers do not foresee any reason why the return capsule wouldn’t be able to bring the astronauts back to Earth safely.

He explained: “So far, we don’t see any scenario where Starliner is not going to be able to bring Butch and Suni home.”

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