US Astronauts Stuck In International Space Station For Way Too Long

By TeeJay Small | Updated

international space station (1)

If you’ve been following the news in recent months, you may be aware that Boeing is currently embroiled in a major PR crisis, as several reports of their airplanes failing to meet safety standards have made international headlines. Boeing’s problems have gone from international to interstellar, as their shoddy work has directly led to a pair of US astronauts being trapped inside the International Space Station. The astronauts have already far exceeded their projected mission time, with no end in sight as engineers scramble to get them home safely.

An Eight-Day Mission

international space station NASA

The astronauts currently trapped in the International Space Station are Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams. The duo were originally slated for an eight-day mission aboard the ISS Starliner, which serves as a collaboration between NASA and Boeing. At the time of this writing, Wilmore and Williams have been stranded in space for nearly an entire month, well over their eight-day projection, with no determined date for their return to Earth.

Returning Next Month….Hopefully

Boeing spokesmen have been updating the public on the status of the astronauts, explaining that the pair will be on pace to return after completing a pair of spacewalks outside the International Space Station on June 24 and July 2, respectively. Despite offering this timeline, Boeing reps were not able to explain exactly how the issues with Starliner came to pass or when the issues will be fixed, if at all. Starliner previously encountered numerous safety concerns before the mission took place, causing the initial launch to be delayed by over a year.

Starliner System Failures

The main reason for the outage that has left these two astronauts stuck on the International Space Station relates to Starliner’s thrusters, which previously rendered two planned launches unsuccessful.

While the June 5 launch did manage to get Wilmore and Williams safely into orbit and onboard the ISS, 5 of the craft’s 27 thrusters have continued to encounter problems. Boeing reps claim that 4 of the 5 affected thrusters are now operational again, and that the craft should safely be able to return home once the mission is complete.

A Billion Dollar Problem

space tourism

These claims from Boeing instill very little confidence in the public, considering the already $1.5 billion price tag in errors incurred by the initial two launches. Despite this controversy, the astronauts on the International Space Station are well-stocked with food and supplies, so they’re facing no immediate danger as the mission continues to be extended.

Plus, at the very least, it seems that Boeing engineers have been able to halt one serious problem with the Starliner in the form of a habitual helium leak that made the craft unfit for space travel during initial trials.

The Cost Of Privatizing Space Missions

While it is certainly disconcerting that these astronauts are trapped on the International Space Station, NASA officials have insisted that the Starliner is fully capable of making an emergency return with one thruster out if necessary. The craft only requires 7 hours of free-flight time for standard end-of-mission procedures, and engineers have confirmed that it currently holds the capacity to support up to 70 hours of undocked activity.

Despite the alarming headlines and some expected cabin fever on the part of the astronauts, Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams don’t seem to be facing any immediate danger.