NASA and Boeing have announced changes to Boeing’s upcoming crew flight tests, and the CST-100 Starliner will send three crew members to the International Space Station (ISS) next year,media reported. Barry “Butch” Wilmore will replace Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson on the mike Fincke and Nicole Mann missions.
The mission will be Boeing Starliner’s first flight, with Ferguson as planned.
In a NASA press release today (October 7 local time), the agency said only that Ferguson’s decision not to fly was for personal reasons, but the person further elaborated on this in a statement posted to Twitter. “I want to share with you a difficult personal decision that I have to make. I chose to step down as commander of the manned flight tests scheduled for next year. I’ve always been committed to human spaceflight, I’m committed to the Starliner project, and I’m passionate about building her team. “
“But next year will be very important for my family, ” he continued. ” I’m not going anywhere, I’m not going to space next year. In fact, both NASA and Boeing say Ferguson will be in charge of mission integration and operations. He will also begin his role as head of flight systems for Boeing’s commercial crew program, a position where he will ensure that the Starliner spacecraft meets the needs of NASA astronauts.
Ferguson is no stranger to space flight, having traveled three times on the space shuttle, including as commander of the STS-135. Wilmore, who will succeed him on the Starliner mission, has 178 days in space and completed two space station missions, so he certainly won’t have much of a problem with space flight.
So while Starliner’s crew is going through some changes, it looks like the mission will continue as planned. Currently, the first manned test flight of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft is scheduled for mid-2021, although a more specific date has not yet been set.