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Starliner spacecraft cleared for undocking and re-entry

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft docked at the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Astronauts on the International Space Station closed the hatch to Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft Tuesday, and ground teams used the lab’s robotic arm to inspect the capsule’s heat shield to clear the vehicle for undocking Wednesday and return to Earth for a late afternoon landing in New Mexico.

The Boeing-owned spacecraft launched last Thursday and docked at the space station Friday night, reaching the orbiting research complex for the first time after officials aborted a test flight in 2019. The unpiloted demonstration mission is set to conclude Wednesday with an automated departure from the space station, followed a few hours later by a parachute-assisted, airbag cushioned landing at White Sands Space Harbor.

NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines closed the forward hatch to the Starliner spacecraft at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) Tuesday. Hines became the first person to enter a Starliner spacecraft in orbit Saturday, when the station crew opened the hatch and began three days of inspections and checkouts inside the capsule’s crew cabin.

Astronauts Jessica Watkins, Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, and Samantha Cristoforetti on the International Space Station Tuesday. Credit: NASA TV / Spaceflight Now

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