NASA Astronauts Stranded In Space Make Hopeful Announcement, But There’s A Catch

Two NASA astronauts stuck on the International Space Station (ISS) gave a semi-hopeful update about their return during a press conference Wednesday.

Sunita Williams and Butch Wilmore successfully rode into orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, on June 5, 2024 aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. After years of delays in take-off, a slew of issues hit during the inaugural crewed flight according to LiveScience. Five separate helium leaks, along with five failures of its reaction control system (RCS) thrusters, have left Williams and Wilmore trapped in space for over a month.

The RCS system is essential for orienting the craft to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. But there is hope. “We’ve been through a lot of simulations,” Williams said Wednesday, “I feel confident that if we had to — if there was a problem with the International Space Station — we could get in our spacecraft, we could undock, talk to our team and figure out the best way to come home.”

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – JUNE 05: Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 during NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test on June 05, 2024, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The mission is sending two astronauts to the International Space Station. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Williams and Wilmore go back to the Starliner once a week to work on the thrusters with engineers on Earth. The process has been largely safe, though on June 27, a defunct Russian satellite broke up in orbit, hurling debris at the ISS. Williams and Wilmore, as well as seven other astronauts, were forced to take cover within their capsules. (RELATED: NASA Scientists Rejoice After Finding 1-Inch Tomato ‘Lost In Space’… Wait. What?)

The Starliner was only supposed to stay docked for 45 days. NASA revised this window, adding another 45 days. Boeing and NASA decided to use this time to continue their work, canceling a potential return trip at the end of July, according to NASA.

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – JUNE 05: NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test Commander Butch Wilmore (L) and Pilot Suni Williams walk out of the Operations and Checkout Building on June 05, 2024 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The astronauts are heading to Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, which sits atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex 41 for NASA’s Boeing crew flight test to the International Space Station. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

NASA and Boeing plan to conduct an agency-level review after all ground testing and data analysis is complete, NASA noted. (RELATED: Nearby Nightmare Planet Stinks Of Rotten Eggs, And Scientists Are Thrilled)

“We are ready. We will be ready unless the data shows otherwise,” Williams said in a separate news conference on Wednesday. “But right now, based on what we know, we’re absolutely ready.” And we’re sure ready to have them home. There’s no date on the calendar yet, but we’ll be praying for it.