Fact Check: Posts Say 2 US Astronauts Are Stranded in Space Due to Spacecraft Issues. Here's the Truth

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Getty Images


Two U.S. astronauts were stranded in space in late June 2024 because of issues with their spacecraft.


Rating: False
Rating: False


The two U.S. astronauts, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, were still in space at the time of this writing, but it was misleading to say they were "stranded." Both were safely on board the International Space Station and were awaiting a date to return to Earth with their Boeing Starliner spacecraft.


On June 24, 2024, an X user claimed two U.S. astronauts were stranded in space (archived) without a clear plan for when they would return to Earth.

The X user wrote: "Crazy that there are two american astronauts stranded in low earth orbit without a clear answer on how or when they are getting home and no one is talking about it…"

His post had amassed more than 1.3 million views at the time of this writing.

(X account @zebulgar)

The two American astronauts in question were Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, who left Earth for the International Space Station aboard the Boeing Starliner on June 5, 2024, in the spacecraft's first crewed mission.

Starliner's return flight suffered several setbacks to allow time to assess technical issues. On June 14, it was pushed back to June 22, before being delayed again to June 26. On June 21, NASA announced another change of plans without giving a clear date for when the spacecraft, along with Wilmore and Williams, would head back to Earth.

Following NASA's update, the claim about the two astronauts appeared elsewhere on X in June 2024, in numerous TikTok videos, and in Facebook and Reddit posts.

Numerous news outlets also stated the pair were "stranded" in space.


Although it was true the two NASA astronauts were stuck in space while awaiting a confirmed return date, it was misleading for people to claim Wilmore and Williams were "stranded" because they were safely staying on the ISS, which is why we have rated this claim as "False."

A June 21 NASA news release said the agency and Boeing's leadership team adjusted Starliner's return journey to "deconflict" the spacecraft's undocking from the ISS with a series of planned spacewalks. It explained the delay would give mission teams "time to review propulsion system data."

It also stated the spacecraft was cleared to return to Earth in the event of an emergency on the ISS but that the crew was "not pressed for time to leave the station" because there were plenty of supplies on board and the space station's schedule "is relatively open through mid-August."

"Mission managers are evaluating future return opportunities following the station's two planned spacewalks on Monday, June 24, and Tuesday, July 2," the news release said.

Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said in a statement the adjustment would allow the teams to assess technical issues encountered on board Starliner:

We are taking our time and following our standard mission management team process. We are letting the data drive our decision making relative to managing the small helium system leaks and thruster performance we observed during rendezvous and docking… Starliner is performing well in orbit while docked to the space station. We are strategically using the extra time to clear a path for some critical station activities while completing readiness for Butch and Suni's return on Starliner and gaining valuable insight into the system upgrades we will want to make for post-certification missions.

Boeing Starliner released the same news release on June 21.

NASA published updates about Starliner's mission progress in a blog on its website.

On June 11, Williams said on X she was happy to be on the ISS. On June 20, NASA's Johnson Space Center posted a GIF on X showing Wilmore and Williams had arrived at the station, thus proving they were not "stranded" in space.

Williams spoke to students at her namesake school, Sunita L. Williams Elementary, from the ISS on June 21, according to the Boeing Space X account.

She and Wilmore then appeared in a photo posted on X by the ISS account later that day.


NASA, Boeing Adjust Timeline for Starliner Return. https://starlinerupdates.com/nasa-boeing-adjust-timeline-for-starliner-return/. Accessed 25 June 2024.

NASA, Boeing Adjust Timeline for Starliner Return – NASA's Boeing Crew Flight Test. 21 June 2024, https://blogs.nasa.gov/boeing-crew-flight-test/2024/06/21/nasa-boeing-adjust-timeline-for-starliner-return/.

NASA's Boeing Crew Flight Test. 21 June 2024, https://blogs.nasa.gov/boeing-crew-flight-test/category/boeing/.

NASA's Boeing Crew Flight Test - NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/mission/boeing-crewflighttest/. Accessed 25 June 2024.

'X.Com'. X (Formerly Twitter), https://x.com/Astro_Suni/status/1800542369898786893. Accessed 25 June 2024.

'---'. X (Formerly Twitter), https://x.com/NASA_Johnson/status/1803798393699103070. Accessed 25 June 2024.

'---'. X (Formerly Twitter), https://x.com/BoeingSpace/status/1804173426296332504. Accessed 25 June 2024.

'---'. X (Formerly Twitter), https://x.com/Space_Station/status/1804203798161953183. Accessed 25 June 2024.