Remain stuck in orbit amid Starliner repairs

Two NASA astronauts, Barry Wilmore and Suni Williams, are stuck on the ISS two weeks past their scheduled return as engineers work on fixing helium leaks in the Boeing Starliner spacecraft.

Remain stuck in orbit amid Starliner repairs

TWO NASA astronauts, Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Sunita "Suni" Williams, are stuck orbiting Earth on the International Space Station (ISS), now two weeks past their planned return to Earth.

They remain aboard the ISS as Boeing and NASA engineers work to fix a series of helium leaks on the Boeing Starliner spacecraft, which carried them to space on its inaugural crewed mission, as per a Newsweek report.

Starliner, which faced multiple delays before its June 5 launch, encountered thruster issues and helium leaks on its way to the ISS. Despite these problems, NASA has stated that the spacecraft has been “performing well in orbit while docked to the space station,” as quoted by Newsweek.

NASA has assured the public that Wilmore and Williams are not "stranded" and could return home whenever necessary. They remain in orbit to give mission teams time to review propulsion system data and manage the helium leaks. According to the report, the Starliner is capable of staying docked at the ISS for up to 45 days.

"We are taking our time and following our standard mission management team process," Steve Stich, NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager, said. “We are letting the data drive our decision making relative to managing the small helium system leaks and thruster performance,” as quoted by Newsweek.

Originally scheduled to return on June 22, Wilmore and Williams' return was postponed to June 26 and then delayed indefinitely as of last Friday.

The Starliner's first crewed mission took three attempts to launch. This mission is a critical part of the program intended to provide an alternative to SpaceX's Crew Dragon for transporting astronauts and cargo to orbit. Despite numerous delays and technical issues, Boeing remains optimistic. Mark Nappi, the vice president and program manager of the Commercial Crew Program for Boeing, reported that Wilmore and Williams remain "overwhelmingly positive."

Who Are the Astronauts?

Sunita "Suni" Williams

Indian origin Sunita Williams, 58, is also a NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy officer, serving as Wilmore's co-pilot on the Starliner mission. Selected by NASA in 1998, Williams has commanded the ISS and held the record for most spacewalks by a woman, at seven, and for most spacewalk time, at 50 hours and 40 minutes.

Known for her achievements in space, Williams was the first person to run a marathon and complete a triathlon in space. She has received numerous awards, including the Legion of Merit and the Humanitarian Service Medal.

Barry "Butch" Wilmore

Barry "Butch" Wilmore, 61, is a seasoned NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy test pilot. Selected by NASA in 2000, Wilmore has previously served on two spaceflights, including piloting a Space Shuttle mission to the ISS in 2009. He later returned to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2014. Accumulating 178 days in orbit, Wilmore has a distinguished career as a Navy test pilot and has received numerous honors, including the Navy Meritorious Service Medal and the NCAA Theodore Roosevelt Award.