Home » No, Astronauts On The ISS Are Not Stranded Because Of Boeing’s Starliner, Despite What You Read

No, Astronauts On The ISS Are Not Stranded Because Of Boeing’s Starliner, Despite What You Read

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As we’ve perhaps seen too much of recently, events that are happening in the world – and above it – are becoming leaden with all sorts of extra baggage, and it all just seems to be in service of the constant level of outrage and alarm the internet appears to want us to maintain, nonstop. This is currently happening with the reporting about the situation of Boeing’s new Starliner spacecraft, currently docked at the International Space Station. You may have read any number of headlines that the two astronauts that traveled in the capsule are currently “stuck in space” or stranded there. They’re not.

Now, Boeing’s Starliner absolutely had problems; it’s already about four years behind schedule, and there were issues prior to this launch, including the helium leaks in the thruster subsystems that are causing the current issues with the spacecraft.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The helium is used to pressurize the reaction control system thrusters that are used to orient the spacecraft in space, and are mounted on the service module, which is designed to be discarded before re-entry and burn up in the atmosphere. The service module systems are separate from those in the crew capsule, which is reusable up to ten times and will return to Earth.

Starliner Diagram

That’s why Starliner is extending its stay at the ISS, at least in part; if Boeing wants to learn what is going on with these helium leaks, they need to study the spacecraft, and to do that it needs to be not incinerated in the atmosphere; hence, the time to study what’s going on is when it’s docked to the space station, because it’s a lot easier to see what’s wrong with something before it’s incinerated.

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So far, the Starliner’s flight computer took seven maneuvering jets offline, but subsequent test-firings have confirmed that all but one are still viable for use. From Spaceflight Now:

“That “hot-fire” test gave engineers confidence the jets needed for post-undocking maneuvers and the critical de-orbit “burn” will work as needed to drop the ship out of orbit for re-entry.

Likewise, officials said they were confident the helium leaks could be managed even if one or more gets worse after undocking. Only seven hours of helium is needed for the return to Earth and the Starliner has more than 10 times that amount left on board.”

Now, here’s the important part: Even if they can’t figure out why the helium is leaking and it continues to do so, Starliner has plenty of helium – ten times the amount required – to make the return back to Earth. The spacecraft is rated to be able to remain docked at the station for 45 days – which can be stretched to 72 if needed – so it’s not like they’re in a major time crunch, even if some headlines like to say things like “the window for return flight is closing,” which, yeah, it is, but in the sense that technically, any window to do anything is closing.

The point is, nobody is stranded. If the two astronauts who went up in Starliner, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, need to get back to Earth, they can. And yet, we see headlines like this one, written in massive, we’re-at-war-sized type:

ASTRONAUTS STRANDED IN SPACE, screams Yahoo! Finance, despite the fact that there are no astronauts stranded in space. This is just shitty, alarmist reporting, and Yahoo! is not alone here:

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Headlines Starliner

They’re not stuck! Nobody is stuck or stranded or anything like that! It’s having problems, yes, absolutely, but those problems do not mean that the astronauts are stranded on the ISS! Maybe something will change, maybe something will get worse, maybe a micrometeorite will puncture a critical system or an alien pod will burst its offspring out of the chest of an astronaut, I can’t predict the future, and perhaps that will cause them to become stranded and succumb to Space Madness or whatever, but at this moment? Nobody is stuck.

If you’re really desperate for tales of people being stuck in space, may I suggest the 1969 Gene Hackman space-thriller Marooned?:

I can’t believe how many outlets are reporting this as a stranded-in-space story when it is very much not that, by the simple fact of them not being, you know, stranded in space.

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On top of all of this are the SpaceX/Elon Musk acolytes, because it seems to be impossible to have any story lately that doesn’t some how involve the world’s richest man. Their take on this seems to mostly be masturbatory fantasies that the Starliner capsule will be unusable and NASA will have to beg Elon to send up a SpaceX Dragon capsule to save the astronauts:

There’s more, of course, posted by people unfamiliar with the meaning of “literally”:

…and more, shittier takes, too, seasoned with some extra-shitty racism, because why not:

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… there’s so, so many more. It’s ridiculous. But the rabid Elon-worshippers I expect this from, it’s not a surprise. It’s the major news outlets that are latching onto the alarmist and inaccurate “stranded” narrative that get me. Yes, Boeing has had a long string of problems recently, and so has the development of the Starliner, but that doesn’t mean we just get to make up whatever narrative is the most luirdly thrilling at any moment. We deserve better than this.

I’m very confident these astronauts will be back on Earth quite soon, and the people at NASA and Boeing will have the information they need to get this fixed. And there will be SpaceX capsules that go to and from the station, and the world will continue to revolve below.

Man. Everyone needs to just calm the fuck down.

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Piston Slap Yo Mama
Piston Slap Yo Mama
24 days ago

Considering that a recent NYTimes poll revealed that one-in-five Americans think Biden is responsible for Roe v Wade being overturned, nothing surprises me anymore about our capacity for misunderstanding basic facts.

sentinelTk
sentinelTk
24 days ago

So was on a flight in a 737 out of Chicago last night. Significant reroute due to weather resulted in us getting diverted to a different airport to refuel (plus it was a quick turnaround in an already backed up Ohare so I assume they refueled light to begin with). No big deal. An inconvenience for sure but it happens.

The row in front of me; however, had different ideas. Demanded to know how we could possibly have left without enough fuel. Eventually came to the brilliant conclusion that this was because we were in a Boeing. Clearly we were going to run out of fuel because of Boeing’s incompetence. So yeah, those headlines above don’t shock me unfortunately…..

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
25 days ago

Of course the other fun twist is they didn’t get to bring their luggage, so I’m sure the extended stay isn’t that wonderful.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
25 days ago

“Boeing’s DEI incompetence.”

Yes, DEI has clearly run amuk at Boeing. I mean, my god, the C-suite isn’t even 100% white men anymore! It’s only mostly white men! https://www.boeing.com/company/bios

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
25 days ago

Dipshits want another Apollo 13. For clicks. So sick.

Fordlover1983
Fordlover1983
25 days ago

I second the recommendation of “Marooned”! I’d suggest a double feature with “Capricorn One” for some space conspiracy action!

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