Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson won't fly on inaugural crewed flight of CST-100 Starliner

Ferguson withdrew from the mission citing personal reasons – family commitments that couldn't be missed.

Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson is dropping out of the crewed flight test as part of the Boeing Starliner mission. Now he will be replaced by veteran NASA astronaut Barry 'Butch' Wilmore. The space agency updated its crew status of the NASA Boeing Crew Flight Test, which will take three astronauts on a CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station in 2021. The other two crew members of the mission remain the same, namely astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann. Ferguson was supposed to serve as the commander in the mission but withdrew himself citing personal reasons. He tweeted a video clip, where he talks about family commitments that cannot be missed.

Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson outside the CST-100 Starliner crew capsule. Image: Boeing

Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson outside the CST-100 Starliner crew capsule. Image: Boeing

"I’m taking on a new mission, one that keeps my feet planted here firmly on Earth and prioritizes my most important crew – my family. I’ll still be working hard with the #Starliner team and the @NASA_Astronauts on our crew," he wrote.

NASA says Barry Wilmore will have no troubles stepping in as the commander as he has been training with the rest of the crew since July, 2018. This is because he was named the sole backup for all flight positions. He will now focus on the commander’s duties to prepare for the test flight that tests the "end-to-end capabilities of the new Starliner system".

Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said that Butch will be able to seamlessly step in and his previous experience on both space shuttle and space station missions make him a valuable addition. She also spoke about Ferguson’s new responsibilities as he continues to work significantly in the mission.

He will be now taking over the role of director of Mission Integration and Operations, as well as the director of Crew Systems for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. The former NASA astronaut will stay on land and ensure that the Starliner spacecraft meets all the needs of NASA astronauts.

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