Boeing Starliner lands safely on the ground after rocky launch

Elon Musk's SpaceX may have the lion's share of successful landings of rockets but rival Boeing is calling dibs on a different sort of landing. Its CST-100 Starliner was supposed to rendezvous with the International Space Station this weekend but failed to meet that objective due to a slight mishap. Fortunately, the mission didn't end in a complete failure and now Boeing boasts of the first successful landing of an orbital crew capsule, paving the way for more tests in the near future.

After the Starliner took off on December 20 and separated from its booster rocket, the spacecraft encountered a glitch in its timing and it ended up burning more fuel than necessary during the orbital insertion burn that would have put it in the ISS' orbit. This, in turn, made it impossible for spacecraft to dock with the orbiting space station, which was one of the most important goals of the inaugural mission.

All was not lost though, as the Starliner still had a few things to check off its list. That included landing safely on the ground instead of the ocean, a first in space travel history. To pull that off, Boeing had to put the craft into stable orbit around the Earth, charging from solar power in the meantime.

That landing happened at 7:58 am EST, when the Starliner gently descended on its airbags. The human-rated capsule was devoid of humans but did have a human-like passenger, the test device "Rosie" which was outfitted with sensors for collecting data. This data along with the capsule's will be retrieved and studied at Florida while the Starliner itself will be refurbished for future missions.

Those missions include a Crewed Flight Test as well as its first operational mission. While the Boeing Starliner was not able to meet one of its goals, bagging a safe capsule landing was still a laudable job, especially for a first try. That said, with human lives at stake in future tests, there can be no room for even a few seconds of error.