NASA astronaut steps down from Boeing Starliner crew so he’ll be on Earth for daughter’s wedding

A former NASA astronaut is bowing out of Boeing’s first crewed space flight due to the gravity of an upcoming family commitment— his daughter’s wedding.

Christopher Ferguson in a blue shirt: Chris Ferguson is showing that space is not his top priority.

© Pat Sullivan
Chris Ferguson is showing that space is not his top priority.

In a post on his personal Twitter account Wednesday, Chris Ferguson said he was stepping down as commander of the Boeing Starliner crew and skipping next year’s trip to the International Space Station so he could keep his feet “planted here firmly on Earth.”

He called the decision “difficult and personal,” but one that “prioritizes my most important crew — my family.”

“I’m deeply committed to human space flight. I’m dedicated to the Starliner program, and I’m passionate about the team that has built her. But next year is very important for my family,” Ferguson, who previously piloted the Space Shuttle Atlantis, said in a video attached to his post.

“I have made several commitments which I simply cannot risk missing. I’m not going anywhere, I’m just not going into space next year,” he said.

A Boeing spokeswoman confirmed at least one of the commitments is his daughter’s wedding.

The Wednesday handoff is already the second crew change for the Starliner, which was grounded through 2020 due to software problems.

Last year, fellow NASA astronaut Eric Boe stepped down from the capsule’s crew for medical reasons.

Ferguson’s replacement will be Barry “Butch” Wilmore, another NASA astronaut who already was in training as a backup for the test flight.

Wilmore is due to join NASA astronauts Mike Fincke, who replaced Boe, and Nicole Mann on the inaugural flight.

Boeing is planning an uncrewed Starliner test flight for December or January.

If it successfully reaches the International Space Station as planned, Wilmore, Fincke and Mann will climb aboard their Starliner flight as early as June. They’ll head to the space station and stay in orbit as long as six months.

NASA now outsources the job of shuttling astronauts to and from the space station.

Elon Musk’s California-based SpaceX plans to launch its second astronaut flight later this month.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight successfully launched NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station on May 30 and returned them “safely” to Earth on Aug. 2, NASA said.

SpaceX Demo-2 was the first crewed flight test of a commercially-owned and operated human space system.

With News Wire Services

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