“We’re going to leave this planet”: Astronauts prepare to fly on Starliner

NASA has completed the readiness check of the Boeing Starliner, a new spacecraft designed to deliver astronauts from Earth to the International Space Station (ISS) and back. There are less than two weeks left before the first test flight of the crewed Starliner, and NASA has given the go-ahead for its launch. If successful, Starliner will join SpaceX Crew Dragon and become the first American spacecraft to carry astronauts since the Space Shuttle.

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams prepare for their mission in the Starliner spacecraft simulator at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Photo: NASA

Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suny Williams arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Thursday, April 25, to prepare for the first launch of the Starliner in about a week and a half. Arriving on the T-38, Wilmore Williams said they were very excited to be in Florida and were looking forward to the launch date.

“We are going to leave this planet, and that is pretty darn cool,” Williams said.

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suny Williams arrive at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 25 on a T-38 aircraft. Photo: Space.com

Starliner has had a turbulent development, with numerous delays and an unsuccessful first test flight without a crew in 2019. The spacecraft was supposed to reach the International Space Station, but failed to do so, and further tests showed that the Starliner had a number of problems.

However, NASA said that after inspecting the readiness for flight tests, it is confident that the Starliner is safe and ready to fly.

“The first crewed spaceflight of a new spacecraft is an absolutely critical milestone. The lives of our crew members Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore are at stake. We don’t take that lightly at all. I can say with absolute confidence that the teams have done their due diligence,” Jim Free, NASA assistant administrator, said during a press conference.

The official portrait for the flight tests of the NASA crew. Suni Williams, who will be the pilot, and Barry “Butch” Wilmore, the commander of the Starliner spacecraft. Image: NASA

After the verification is completed, the next important step before launch will be a dress rehearsal of the mission. On April 27, astronauts and ground crew will practice operations, including putting on spacesuits and moving to the spacecraft, while teams will work out countdown scenarios, prepare the Starliner crew module and close the airlock.

If all goes according to plan, the real launch will take place on May 6, when the spacecraft will take Williams and Wilmore to the International Space Station on a 10-day mission.

Earlier, we reported that a castling of the crew took place on the Boeing Starliner.

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