Will Sunita Williams be able to return from space? What went wrong with the spacecraft, what did NASA hide

Vardhan


Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams is stuck in space. Sunita Williams left for a space mission on June 5 via the ‘Starliner’ spacecraft. Another astronaut Bush Wilmore, who is the mission commander, was also with her. Both of them were to return after spending about 8 days on the International Space Station (ISS). But both of them have not been able to return yet.

Why is Sunita Williams stuck in space for the last 25 days? Why is her return being postponed again and again? What is the danger in returning? Know in this Explainer…

What is ‘Starliner’ spacecraft? (What is Starliner Spacecraft)
The spacecraft through which Sunita Williams reached the International Space Station (ISS) has been developed by the American aircraft company Boeing. This spacecraft has been named ‘Starliner’. The company also calls it a ‘space capsule’. Boeing developed this spacecraft for the commercial space program of the American space agency NASA. In a way, ‘Starliner’ was developed in joint cooperation between NASA and Boeing.

Astronaut Sunita Williams May Have To Wait Months In Space.  What NASA Is Planning Now

What went wrong with the spacecraft?
The first manned trial of Starliner was conducted on 5 June. Sunita Williams and Bush Wilmore left for ISS in this spacecraft. However, when Starliner was being launched, helium gas was leaking from it. According to a BBC report, Boeing engineers were aware of the gas leak during the launch, but then they did not think it was a big problem. But during the journey, helium gas started leaking from 4 more places in the spacecraft.

Its thrusters also failed while docking at the International Space Station. However, now NASA and Boeing say that four out of five thrusters have been repaired.

Starliner Graphics

Why was Sunit Williams’ return postponed?
According to NASA, it is not at all that ‘Starliner’ cannot be used. In case of emergency, Williams and his fellow astronauts can return to Earth using this spacecraft. But at present the agency wants to get to the bottom of the whole problem. It is trying to find out why and how the gas leaked in these flights and why the thrusters failed. For this reason, the return of the astronauts has been postponed.

Why is NASA under fire?
However, the opinion of experts is completely opposite to the statement of NASA. According to them, the leakage of helium gas in Starliner indicates a serious problem. If the gas leak is not detected and fixed, there is a possibility of fire in the return flight. In this case, Sunita Williams and Wilmore may also lose their lives. Experts are also questioning NASA. They are asking that when the agency knew about the leakage of helium gas at the time of launch, then why did it take such a big risk? Why was this fact hidden?

When can Williams return?
NASA says that the return of this spacecraft does not seem possible at the moment. Let us tell you that Starliner can stay in space for 45 days. 25 days have already passed. In such a situation, the return of Sunita Williams and Wilmore to Earth through Starliner seems difficult. NASA has changed the date of Sunita Williams’ return four times so far. First the date was fixed as June 18, then it was extended to June 22. After that the date of return was changed to June 26. Now it is saying that the return may take up to 90 days.

Sunita Williams could be in space for months;  NASA reiterates that astronauts are 'not stranded' - Hindustan Times

What are the options if Starliner fails?
Even if Boeing’s spacecraft Starliner fails, Sunita Williams can still return to Earth. In such a situation, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX’s spacecraft ‘Dragon’ or the Russian spacecraft ‘Soyuz’ can become a support. NASA can plan to bring Sunita Williams to Earth through these.

Is Williams alone on the ISS?
Sunita Williams and Wilmore are not alone in the International Space Station. There are already 5 astronauts from different countries present there. According to NASA, there is no danger for them at the moment. Sufficient food and water is available. But when, how and in how many days will the return happen has become the biggest matter of concern.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner Space Capsule (Infographic) |  Space

What did the ISRO chief say?
ISRO chief S. Somnath has also said in an interview to NDTV that there is no danger to Sunita Williams. Somnath said that Williams is not alone in the International Space Station. There are already many astronauts present there. They too have to return to Earth one day. In such a situation, the question of Williams being trapped does not arise. The question is about returning safely from Starliner.

Tags: Elon Musk, International Space Station, Nasa study

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