I am undertaking a new mission, a mission that keeps my feet steady here on the ground and prioritizes my most important crew – my family. I will keep working hard with the #Starliner team and @ NASA_Astronauts on our staff. pic.twitter.com/PgdhPqwYQSOctober 7, 2020
Chris Ferguson will not be piloting the first manned flight of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft after all.
Ferguson, the veteran astronaut who led NASA’s last space shuttle mission in 2011 before leaving the agency for Boeing, withdrew from the company’s crew flight test in 2021, citing personal reasons. The test mission will send the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station On a seismic flight to transport astronauts.
Ferguson in the captain’s seat will be replaced by NASA astronaut Butch Wilmer, who has been training as a backup alongside Ferguson and his crewmates Mike Fink and Nicole Mann, both of whom are also NASA astronauts, for more than two years.
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“Butch will be able to intervene smoothly, and his past experience with space shuttle and space station missions makes him a valuable addition to this trip,” said Cathy Lauders, associate director of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Department, He said in a statement.
Wilmore spent a total of 178 days in space during two missions, a space shuttle flight to the orbiting laboratory in 2009 and a stay of approximately 6 months on board the station in 2014 and 2015. During that last mission, Wilmore performed four spacewalks.
Ferguson said that stepping down was a very difficult decision and that he remains committed to helping get the Starliner up and running. “But next year is very important for my family, and I have made many commitments that I simply cannot risk losing,” he said in A video statement posted on Twitter today (October 7)..
“Chris was a talented member of the crew for this mission,” said Lauders. “The NASA and Boeing Commercial Crew teams sincerely appreciate the valuable work he’s done, and will continue to lead in the development of the Starliner, which will help ensure the success of the Starliner Crew Flight Test.”
In 2014, Boeing signed a $ 4.2 billion contract with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to do at least six operational missions to and from the space station with the Starliner. SpaceX signed a similar $ 2.6 billion deal around the same time, which Elon Musk will execute with its Crew Dragon capsule.
SpaceX has already rolled over its version of the Crew Flight Test – the Experimental task 2, Which transported NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to and from the orbiting lab this summer. SpaceX is now preparing for its first operational flight to the station, Crew-1, which is scheduled to launch on October 31.
Starliner’s way was clearer. In December 2019, the capsule failed to meet the station as planned during its first mission, the unmanned orbital flight test. Boeing will define this mission, likely early next year, before placing astronauts on board for flight crew testing.
Ferguson’s departure is not the first crew change of a crew flight test. Fincke came on board the ship in January 2019 after that Eric Poe was withdrawn for medical reasons.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Great Publishing House, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
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