Boeing Capsule Lands Back  Shakedown

on Earth After Space

 Boeing’s crew taxi returned

 to Earth from the International Space Station on Wednesday, completing a repeat test flight before NASA astronauts climb aboard.

It was a quick trip back:

 The Starliner capsule parachuted into the New Mexico desert just four hours after leaving the orbiting lab, with airbags attached to cushion the landing

Aside from thruster failures 

and cooling system snags, Starliner appeared to clinch its high-stakes shakedown cruise, 2 1/2 years after its botched first try

Based on these early 

results, NASA astronauts will strap in next for a trip to the space station, perhaps by year’s end.

The space agency has long

 wanted two competing U.S. companies ferrying astronauts, for added insurance as it drastically reduced its reliance on Russia for rides to and from the space station.

Station astronauts unloaded

 hundreds of pounds of groceries and other supplies that flew up in the Boeing capsule, then filled it with empty air tanks and other discarded gear.

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