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26th Jun 2024

NASA astronauts have just 45 days to be rescued from space

Ryan Price

They have been stranded in space since June 5.

The rescue of two NASA astronauts who have been stuck at the International Space Station since the beginning of June following a series of malfunctions has now become a ‘race against time’.

Barry Wilmore and Suni Williams left Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on June 5 aboard the Boeing Starliner spacecraft for what should have been a simple eight day mission.

Since docking at the ISS, the pair have experienced five helium leaks, five dead maneuvering thrusters and a propellant valve fail. Because of these problems, they have spent the better part of a month abandoned in the great unknown.

NASA astronauts have just 45 days to be rescued from space after their capsule malfunctioned

Engineers have been working tirelessly to solve the problems and find a way to get the spacecraft going again so that both can return home to their families.

NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Steve Sich told the media last week: “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 we observed during rendezvous and docking.”

He added that the Starliner can be docked at the ISS for up to 45 days, and, if necessary, this can be extended to about 72 days thanks to various backup systems.

Previous Boeing Starliner launches had been delayed due to technical issues, and the ambitious project ended up being $1.5 billion dollars over budget due to the countless corrections required.

It’s not clear whether or not there is a date in mind for a potential return, and while both Wilmore and Williams have enough supplies to survive for a lengthy period, both NASA and Boeing will be hoping to bring this media circus to an end as quickly as possible.

The crux of the delay comes down to the Starliner’s expendable propulsion system.

It’s this very system that allows for the spacecraft to penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere, and is needed to be up and running to it’s full capacity in order to ensure the safe return of Wilmore and Williams.

If the Starliner is not safely operational, it’s possible the trapped duo will have to catch a ride with the crew on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, which is also currently attached to the International Space Station on the opposite side.

While this scenario would be deeply embarrassing for Boeing, it would at least ensure the safe return of two of NASA’s most capable and valuable astronauts, and see an end to the whole debacle.

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