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Why the Starliner capsule returning to Earth was a historic moment

Spacecraft landed in New Mexico Sunday morning

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Boeing's Starliner spacecraft returned to Earth Sunday morning, marking a history making landing for the United States.

The capsule safely descended into the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Three parachutes on the Starliner popped open and air bags inflated so the capsule could float down softly and land on the bulls eye.

"The spacecraft flew exceptionally well. And then of course we brought the spacecraft home," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. "For the first time landing a capsule on land in the United States. We have not done that as a nation before. We have now done it."

Bridenstine said the entry, descent, and landing is one of the most difficult phases of flight.

He said he is pleased with the results, despite the fact that the spacecraft couldn't dock at the International Space Station after missing a critical maneuver on Friday.

The mission was cut down to two days in space.

But Bridenstine said they still gained valuable information.

"We're going to get, I think, a lot more data than we would have gotten had the test gone according as planned," Bridenstine said.

Engineers will pour over the data in the next several weeks.

It's unclear how this could impact Boeing's plans to send a crewed mission to space.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program Deputy Manager Steve Stich believes this may not be a huge setback for the private space company.

"To me there's good data out there to suggest once we go through it, maybe it's acceptable to go next step [and] fly the crewed flight test, but we have to go through the data first," Stich said.

Jim Chilton, Boeing's Senior Vice President of the space and launch division, said even though the capsule didn't dock at the ISS, the orbital test flight was a success.

He adds they are confident in the spacecraft.

“We have a going design here. She flew to space, we can control her in space,” Chilton said. “We didn’t do everything we wanted to do, but we don’t see anything wrong with this spaceship right now.”

Watch the press conference that followed Starliner’s landing below.


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