May 25, 2022 - Science

Boeing capsule is back on Earth after successful test in space

Starliner coming back to Earth in black and white with mountains behind it

Boeing's Starliner coming back to Earth. Photo: NASA TV

Boeing's Starliner has landed back on Earth after a successful, uncrewed test run to the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The test helps pave the way for the company to fly NASA astronauts to the space station in the future.

What's happening: The Starliner landed in White Sands, New Mexico, at 6:49pm ET on Wednesday after staying docked to the space station since Friday.

  • During the capsule's test, mission controllers tested out systems like communications, docking ability and thrusters to be sure everything functions as expected in the extreme space environment.
  • The Starliner did experience a few hiccups after launch and during its "nail-biting" docking with the station, but overall, the test appeared to go as planned.

Background: This mission was a re-do of a 2019 test that didn't see the Starliner reach the space station.

  • The malfunctions that occurred during that mission were so severe that they could have resulted in the loss of the capsule.

The big picture: NASA had to rely on Russian rockets and capsules to ferry their astronauts to and from the space station from since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011 until 2020, when SpaceX started launching people to the orbiting outpost.

  • Once Boeing starts flying people to orbit, it will further cement NASA's independence from Russian rocket systems to send Americans to space.
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