It is the second crew change for Boeing’s Starliner capsule, which remained on the ground at least until the end of this year due to software problems during the first test flight last December.
Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson announced his decision Wednesday. Last year, NASA astronaut Eric Boe stepped aside from Starliner’s prime crew for medical reasons. Both were replaced by experienced space station astronauts.
In a video posted on his Twitter account, Ferguson said it was a difficult decision, but “next year is very important for my family.”
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“I’m not going anywhere. I’m just not going into space next year,” Ferguson said. He stressed that he remains committed to the Starliner program and will continue to work for Boeing.
The former NASA astronaut flew into space three times, commanding the last shuttle flight in 2011. He was replaced in the crew of the Starliner by NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore, who had trained as a backup for the test flight. . Wilmore joins NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke, who replaced Boe.
In December or early January, Boeing plans to repeat an unmanned Starliner test flight, in hopes of reaching the space station this time. Hopefully, Wilmore, Fincke and Mann will fly to the space station aboard a Starliner as early as June 2021 and remain in orbit in two weeks to six months.
SpaceX, meanwhile, plans to launch its second astronaut flight later this month. Two NASA test pilots returned to Earth in August to close the first SpaceX crew mission. NASA has entrusted the task of ferrying astronauts to and from the space station to private companies.
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