CBS News space analyst explains what Starliner mishap could mean for future of human spaceflight

Bill Harwood says both good, bad news came from Friday’s launch

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – As NASA and Boeing work through the weekend to uncover what exactly went wrong with the Starliner thrusters, CBS News Space Analyst Bill Harwood is reacting to what happened.

When mission control first encountered the issue with the thrusters not firing on time, Harwood said his mind went right to the problem-solvers.

“We didn’t know what to make of it because we weren’t getting any real data about the nature of the orbit or what may have gone wrong,” he said.

[RELATED: Here’s what went wrong with the Starliner and how NASA hopes to land it | Starliner spacecraft trip to space station goes awry, capsule returning to Earth]

Researchers said a timing mechanism on the thrusters was running on a different time schedule, and the thrusters didn’t fire in time, resulting in the Starliner ascending to a lower orbit.

“You know, it’s a really good news, bad news thing,” Harwood said. “The good news is they’re going to get a lot of data out of those (thrusters). The Atlas V performed perfectly. That was a unique version of that rocket flying for the first time.”

Harwood said the mishap also means Boeing still has some things to figure out.

“Clearly, it’s a setback for Boeing,” he said. “But it’s something I’m pretty sure that they’ll be able to pin down, figure out and move on from. How that’s gonna play out? We don’t know yet.”

[STUNNING PHOTO: Airline passenger snaps coolest photo of Starliner launch]

Harwood said it’s still an exciting time for space travel on the Space Coast.

“When you think about launching people from the U.S. soil once again, that’s exciting,” he said. “I think that’s going to really fire people along to Space Coast. Certainly here in the CBS building -- it has fired us up because watching that rocket take off this morning was pretty darn exciting.”

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