Astronaut and mission commander Chris Ferguson will withdraw from the first manned CST-100 Starliner space mission for family reasons, Boeing and NASA have announced. He will be replaced by NASA veteran astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore.
The CST-100 Starliner’s first crew mission to the International Space Station (ISS), scheduled for June 2021, has had to deal with a number of setbacks, including a failed non-crew test mission and eric Boe’s replacement in January 2019 for physical reasons. The crew will now be made up of Wilmore, Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke.
With the latest crew changes, Wilmore, who has been training as a backup astronaut for the mission since July 2018, will assume the role of mission commander. Meanwhile, Ferguson, a three-time space shuttle veteran who has been working on the Starliner project since 2011, will become director of mission integration and operations, overseeing the Starliner spacecraft and training systems while supporting astronauts during their missions.
Wilmore conducted two missions in space for a total of 178 days. In 2009, he piloted the space shuttle Atlantis, which delivered 14 tons of supplies to the International Space Station, and in 2014, he traveled to the station aboard the Soyuz spacecraft for a 167-day mission and four spacewalks.
He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee at Cookville and a master’s degree in aeronautical systems from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is also a retired U.S. Navy captain who accumulated 7,800 flight hours and 663 aircraft carrier landings before joining NASA’s astronaut corps in 2000.
“Butch will be able to get on the job seamlessly, and his previous experience on space shuttle and space station missions has made him a valuable addition to this flight.” Kathy Lueders, deputy director of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission, said. “Chris has always been a talented member of this mission. NASA and Boeing’s commercial crew are grateful for the valuable work he has done and will continue to lead the development of Starliner, which will help ensure the success of the Starliner flight test. “