There are two companies NASA is relying on to fly its astronauts to the International Space Station.
SpaceX has always received most of the attention — in large part because of its celebrity, billionaire leader, Elon Musk, who’s late-night, stream of consciousness Twitter feed has an audience of more than 35 million.
But also because the company is just crushing it. It lands and reuses rockets. It even catches the nose cones, known as fairings, with a boat outfitted with a giant net, playing centerfield in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Then, in May, it pulled off the first flight of NASA astronauts from United States soil — an achievement many thought its competitor would claim.
In contrast, Boeing, the early favorite, stumbled.
The test flight of its Starliner capsule without astronauts on board ran into trouble as soon as it was hoisted into orbit. A software problem caused the internal computer to be off by 11 hours. And ultimately ground crews scrambled to rescue the spacecraft and bring it home after a couple days, without ever docking with the International Space Station.
Given the stumbles, Boeing has agreed to replay the mission without crews on board. That is expected later this year. If all goes well, it could finally fly its test mission with astronauts on board sometime early next year.
Since the mishap the company has made progress, and shaken up its leadership, as it also recovers from the outfall of the 737 Max scandal.
“The @BoeingSpace team is working hard to make #Starliner incredibly safe for all of us,” he wrote on Twitter.
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