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Starliner makes safe return to earth after clock error cuts trip short

Image: The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft lands in White Sands, N.M.,
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft lands in White Sands, N.M., after an abbreviated orbital flight test on Dec. 22, 2019.   -  
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Aubrey Gemignani AFP - Getty Images
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Boeing's Starliner capsule returned safely to earth on Sunday morning after a test mission marred by a clock error caused it to end its trip early, according to NASA.

The autonomous craft was launched on Friday, but due to an internal clock error it was forced to make its return to earth.

The Starliner's re-entry into earth's atmosphere was smooth as it slowed from 25 times the speed of sound to land gently on the desert floor, according to CNBC.

"A flawless flight back to Earth and a good landing," NASA said in a tweet.

Although the capsule stuck the landing, the Starliner did not accomplish its mission of docking with the International Space Station and delivering supplies.

The Starliner's mission was cut short because the flight control system fired at the wrong time shortly after the capsule launched, CNBC reported.

Boeing, NASA and U.S. Army personnel work the scene where the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft landed after an abbreviate orbital test flight in White Sands, N.M., on Dec. 22, 2019.
Boeing, NASA and U.S. Army personnel work the scene where the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft landed after an abbreviate orbital test flight in White Sands, N.M., on Dec. 22, 2019.Bill Ingalls / NASA

During the launch, Boeing explained, the spacecraft "reached in" to the rocket and "grabbed the wrong spot," which caused the internal clock to be set incorrectly, according to CNBC.

There was no one aboard the flight for the test mission, but the Starliner was Boeing's attempt to show NASA that it could safely carry as many as five people to the ISS, according to CNBC.

In addition to the soft landing, the Starliner's return to earth also marked a first for space travel.

"This marks the 1st time an American-made, human-rated capsule has landed on land," NASA wrote in a tweet.

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During its orbit, Starliner was able to test parts of the spacecraft, such as flight control and life support.

The Starliner's safe return gives Boeing a small victory after it announced Monday that it is suspending production of its troubled 737 Max airplanes next month.

Production of the planes will remain on hiatus until regulators determine when they can be certified and returned to service, Boeing said in a statement.

The 737 Max airplanes were grounded after two crashes killed 346 people.

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