A NASA astronaut has given space fans a zero-gravity tour of a new capsule that could one day take humans to Mars.
Bob “Farmer” Hines captured video from inside the Boeing Starliner capsule after it docked with the International Space Station on Friday.
The docking marked the completion of an important goal as Boeing intends to provide another vehicle for NASA to send astronauts into space.
The aerospace giant is competing with companies like SpaceX to provide equipment for future Nasa missions to the moon and beyond.
Last week’s mission was a high-stakes test flight to orbit with no astronauts on board.
It followed a failed mission in 2019 when the capsule failed to reach the intended orbit to take it to the ISS.
Hines offered a sneak peek at the spacecraft, which, once fully tested, will carry astronauts to and from the orbiting space laboratory.
Footage from the tour shows Rosie, a mannequin, hooked up to sensors that collected data during last week’s trip.
This data will be used to improve the experience ahead of Starliner’s first manned test flight later this year.
Online commenters noted that the pod looked cluttered compared to the Crew Dragon capsules built by SpaceX.
However, the tour covered only a small part of the spacecraft, so no clear conclusions can be drawn about the design.
The rendezvous of the gummy candy-shaped CST-100 Starliner with the orbiting laboratory, currently housing seven crew members, took place nearly 26 hours after the capsule’s launch from US Space Force Base Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Starliner took off on May 19 on an Atlas V rocket provided by the Boeing and Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA).
31 minutes later, the spacecraft reached its intended provisional orbit, despite the failure of two onboard engines.
Boeing said the two failed engines posed no risk to the rest of the spaceflight, which comes after more than two years of delays and costly engineering setbacks in a program.
Docking with the ISS took place at 20:28 EDT (0028 GMT Saturday) as the two craft flew 271 miles (436 km) across the southern Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia, according to commentators on a live NASA webcast of the connection .
It was the first time spacecraft from both partners in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program were physically attached to the space station at the same time.
A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has been docked with the space station since carrying four astronauts to the ISS in late April.
Much depended on the outcome, after an ill-fated first test flight nearly ended in the loss of the vehicle in late 2019 after a software error effectively thwarted the spacecraft’s ability to reach the space station.
Subsequent problems with Starliner’s propulsion system, supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne, resulted in Boeing banning a second attempt at launch last summer.
Starliner remained grounded for another nine months while the two companies fought over what resulted in fuel valves remaining closed and which company was responsible for the repair, Reuters reported last week.
Boeing said it ultimately resolved the issue with a temporary workaround and is planning a redesign after this week’s flight.
In addition to searching for a cause of engine failures shortly after liftoff on Thursday, Boeing said it was monitoring unexpected behavior detected with Starliner’s thermal control system, but that the capsule’s temperatures remained stable.
“This is all part of the learning process for operating Starliner in orbit,” Boeing mission commentator Steve Siceloff said during the NASA webcast.
The capsule is scheduled to leave the space station on Wednesday for a return flight to Earth that will end with a parachute landing in the New Mexico desert.
Success is seen as crucial for Boeing as the Chicago-based company struggles to emerge from successive crises in its jetliner business and space defense unit.
The Starliner program alone has cost nearly $600 million in engineering setbacks since the 2019 mishap.
If all goes well with the current mission, Starliner could fly its first team of astronauts to the space station as early as fall.
For now, the only passenger was a research dummy, whimsically named Rosie the Rocketeer, wearing a blue flight suit, strapped into the commander’s seat and collecting data on crew cabin conditions during the voyage, plus 800 pounds (363 kg) of cargo to deliver to the space station.
The orbital platform is currently manned by a crew of three NASA astronauts, one European Space Agency astronaut from Italy and three Russian cosmonauts.
The director general of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, noted the docking in a social media post on Saturday, adding: “The station is not in danger. Order reigns on board the Russian segment of the ISS.”
Since manned flights resumed from American soil to orbit in 2020, nine years after the end of the space shuttle program, the US space agency has had to rely solely on Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 rockets and Crew Dragon capsules Left SpaceX to fly NASA astronauts.
Until now, the only other way to reach the orbital laboratory was by hitchhiking on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
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https://www.the-sun.com/tech/5403689/inside-starliner-pod-put-humans-on-mars/ Inside the NEW Starliner pod that will “put humans on Mars”