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Starliner zooms over Lake Lanier on Christmas mission to International Space Station
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The Boeing space capsule Starliner can be seen over Lake Lanier on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, as it heads for the International Space Station. (Photo courtesy Merle Rinehart)

Merle Rinehart didn’t know what was causing the strange contrails in the early-morning sky over Lake Lanier, but she had to take a picture.

“I just knew it was an unusual sight,” Rinehart said.

Later that day she discovered it was Boeing’s Starliner, the company’s new space capsule headed for the International Space Station.

Much of Atlanta was able to see the capsule head for space Friday after it launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Boeing hoped to send Starliner to dock with the ISS and return it as part of the company’s effort to launch astronauts for NASA next year.

Built to accommodate seven, the white capsule with black and blue trim will typically carry four or five people. It's 16.5 feet tall with its attached service module and 15 feet in diameter.

For the test flight, the Starliner carried Christmas treats and presents for the six space station residents, the original air travel ID card belonging to Boeing's founder and a mannequin, named Rosie after the biceps-flexing riveter of World War II.

The flight was designed to test all systems, from the vibrations and stresses of liftoff to the touchdown at the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on Sunday, with parachutes and air bags to soften the landing.

However, the capsule failed to rendezvous with the ISS.

Boeing got more than $4 billion in 2014 to develop and fly the Starliner as it competes with SpaceX, the Elon Musk-led rocket and spacecraft company.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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