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Boeing’s Starliner capsule returns to Earth

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Boeing’s Starliner space capsule landed in the New Mexico desert Wednesday,

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, completing a six-day mission in which it finally reached the International Space Station and that could lead to flights with astronauts.

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The capsule, without any crew on board, touched down as scheduled at 6:49 p.m. Eastern time at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico under a trio of parachutes.

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The landing was the last step of a crucial test for Boeing and NASA, which required the aerospace company to prove it could safely fly the vehicle to the station

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The return flight went smoothly, NASA and Boeing said, from undocking with the space station, then firing its thrusters to deorbit and entering the atmosphere.

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As it plunged back toward Earth, its heat shield endured temperatures as high as 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

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