Boeing's uncrewed Starliner back on Earth after flight. Photo: NASA

A December flight test of Boeing's Starliner may have ended in the loss of the uncrewed spacecraft if major software problems weren't caught during the mission, NASA said Friday.

Why it matters: Boeing is expected to start flying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station on Starliner this year, but the test flight issues could push back Boeing's first crewed flight.

Details: The uncrewed Starliner was expected to dock with the space station after its launch on Dec. 20, but a software issue involving a timer onboard the craft prevented the two from connecting, forcing Starliner to come back to Earth days early, on Dec. 22.

  • In addition to the timer problem, a NASA and Boeing investigation team found another software issue corrected during the mission could have caused a major malfunction during the test flight had it not been caught.
  • "The team found the two critical software defects were not detected ahead of flight despite multiple safeguards," NASA said in a statement. "Ground intervention prevented loss of vehicle in both cases."

The intrigue: NASA is also going to perform a safety assessment focused on Boeing's Starliner work and management.

  • "The comprehensive safety review will include individual employee interviews with a sampling from a cross section of personnel, including senior managers, mid-level management and supervision, and engineers and technicians at multiple sites," NASA said.

What's to watch: NASA and Boeing are expected to complete their investigation by the end of the month.

  • The agency will also decide whether Boeing will need to re-do an uncrewed test before flying astronauts for the first time.

Go deeper: Boeing's Starliner lands back on Earth after troubled mission

Go deeper

16 mins ago - Health

239 scientists call on WHO to recognize coronavirus as airborne

People walk at the boardwalk in Venice Beach. Photo: APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

A group of 239 scientists in 32 countries are calling for the World Health Organization to revise its recommendations to account for airborne transmission as a significant factor in how the coronavirus spreads, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: The World Health Organization has said the virus mainly spreads via large respiratory droplets that fall to the ground once they've been discharged in coughs and sneezes. But the scientists say evidence shows the virus can spread from smaller particles that linger in air indoors.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 11,294,859 — Total deaths: 531,419 — Total recoveries — 6,078,552Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 2,839,917 — Total deaths: 129,676 — Total recoveries: 894,325 — Total tested: 34,858,427Map.
  3. States: Photos of America's pandemic July 4 ICU beds in Arizona hot spot near capacity.
  4. Public health: U.S. coronavirus infections hit record highs for 3 straight days.
  5. Politics: Trump extends PPP application deadlineKimberly Guilfoyle tests positive.
  6. World: Mexican leaders call for tighter border control as infections rise in U.S.
  7. Sports: 31 MLB players test positive as workouts resume.
  8. 1 📽 thing: Drive-in movie theaters are making a comeback.

Protesters toss Columbus statue into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

Christopher Columbus statue in Columbus Piazza in Little Italy on April 9, 2015 in Baltimore. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Protesters in Baltimore on Saturday toppled a statue of Christopher Columbus and tossed it into the city's Inner Harbor, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Why it matters: It's the latest monument toppled by demonstrators during the protests against racism and police brutality. Statues of Confederate soldiers and slave owners have been a flashpoint in the protests.