Boeing’s new passenger spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, landed safely in the New Mexico desert this morning, bringing a swift end to a very rough debut flight to space. The space capsule, which didn’t have many people on board, was meant to spend up to a week in orbit and dock with the International Space Station. But a software problem during launch prevented the Starliner from reaching the station, and Boeing was forced to bring the spacecraft home after just two days.
Despite the troubles during the trip up, Starliner’s landing was otherwise flawless. The capsule took itself out of orbit on Sunday and plunged through Earth’s atmosphere to reach the surface below. After surviving temperatures of 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the vehicle then deployed three main parachutes to lower itself down gently to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. As it touched down at the site, the Starliner also inflated airbags to cushion its landing.
Boeing’s new Starliner spacecraft is in the wrong orbit during the first trip to space. The fate of Boeing’s new spacecraft is a mystery following launch to orbit. The Starliner is the first US-made passenger capsule that is designed to go to orbit and then land on land, according to Boeing.