NASA’s Botched Launch Forces Astronauts to Stay Longer at Int’l Space Station Amidst Investigation

Artsiom P /
Artsiom P /

In yet another embarrassing setback for Boeing, its troubled Starliner spacecraft has been grounded due to persistent technical glitches, leaving two brave American astronauts stranded at the International Space Station (ISS) without a confirmed return date.

Astronauts Sunita ‘Suni’ Williams and Barry ‘Butch’ Wilmore were supposed to have returned home by now but instead find themselves stuck in limbo thanks to the botched maiden voyage of the Starliner. The duo won’t be coming back until at least June 26th, according to NASA officials who announced the delay last week.

Steve Stich, head honcho of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, attempted to downplay the severity of the situation saying, “We’re taking our time and following our standard mission management team process.” He went on to explain, “We’re letting the data drive our decision-making relative to managing the small helium system leaks and thruster performance we observed during rendezvous and docking.”

This isn’t exactly reassuring considering these aren’t minor hiccups – they’re major red flags! And let’s remember, this is far cry from the success story of Elon Musk’s SpaceX which pulled off a flawless demo run in 2020 without any such mishaps.

To add insult to injury, it took three attempts within a span of mere weeks for the Starliner to even reach orbit successfully. During those failed launches, there were already signs of trouble brewing including multiple instances of helium leakage prior to reaching the ISS!

Now, despite all these glaring warning signals, Mr.Stitch claims the Starliner is performing adequately while docked at the ISS. One can only wonder if he’d say differently had his name not been attached to this fiasco.

As part of damage control efforts, NASA plans to conduct an exhaustive internal review akin to the one conducted preceding SpaceX’s triumphant Demo-2 re-entry in 2020. According to Stitch, “It is appropriate for us to complete an agency-level review…to document the agency’s formal acceptance on proceeding as planned.”

Meanwhile, both the astronauts and the ISS itself seem prepared for an indefinite staycation courtesy of Boeing’s ineptitude. Supplies onboard the orbital outpost should keep them going indefinitely, so no immediate danger looms large over the heads of Williams or Wilmore. However, you’ve got to question how much longer taxpayers must foot the bill for corporate incompetence masquerading as innovation?

BA stock prices barely budged upon news breaking about the latest snafu plaguing America’s premier aerospace company – perhaps investors know something we don’t? As things stand today, when push comes to shove, it seems Uncle Sam would rather prop up failing corporations than hold them accountable for subpar workmanship. What does this portend for future endeavors in the final frontier? Only time shall tell…