A test is a test…

Boeing may be feeling somewhat slighted. They launched a test flight of their Starliner capsule to the Space Station on December 20th.

HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 24: A mockup of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft is seen inside the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility during a media preview for an upcoming public open house at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on October 24, 2018 in Houston, Texas. The public open house will celebrate NASA’s 60th anniversary and the International Space Station’s 20th anniversary. (Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images)

The launch went fine but the main boost failed to fire as scheduled in order to push the capsule to the correct course to the Space Station. This led to bringing the capsule back to earth successfully and safely without it making it to the Space Station.

Safely landed

From the reactions in the media one could be forgiven for thinking that this was just a gnats hair away from a total catastrophe.

Which kind of makes me wonder what the media thinks the point of testing actually is?

Something is tested because the performance of the system under “test” is not yet proven to be reliable. That’s why it is being tested.

So Boeing tested their system – it did not perform as expected. Of course it did show that, had the capsule been manned, the crew inside would have been perfectly safe and would have been returned to earth unharmed along with the capsule.

And now – investigation of the error will, hopefully, reveal not just why the error happened but whether there are underlying assumptions which helped bring the error about and the system will be corrected to take care of it. Making it safer and more effective.