Along with SpaceX, Boeing is one of the two private companies selected by NASA to transport its astronauts to the International Space Station. After the unmanned Demo-1 test in 2019, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule completed a successful manned certification flight, Demo-2, this summer. Boeing’s Starliner, on the other hand, did not meet the objectives of its unmanned test in late 2019. Indeed, the schedule of this private ship is falling behind and a second unmanned test flight will first have to be completed in early 2021 before a manned mission called CFT, for Crew Flight Test, planned for mid-2021. This was to be under the command of Christopher Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut (3 shuttle flights) currently working for Boeing. On 7 October, he announced that he had made the difficult decision not to participate in the CFT mission for family reasons (tweet below).
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. pic.twitter.com/PgdhPqwYQS
— Christopher Ferguson (@Astro_Ferg) October 7, 2020
NASA astronaut, Barry “Butch” Wilmore (2 shuttle flights and a 167-day mission aboard the ISS), will therefore take command of CFT, the purpose of which is to certify the Boeing Starliner capsule.
Ferguson’s two crewmates, Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke, both saluted their new commander’s appointment on their Twitter account, while thanking his predecessor for the work he did.
— Nicole Mann (@AstroDuke) October 7, 2020
ICYMI- Crew Change for our upcoming experimental test flight of the beautiful @Boeing CST-100 Starliner. We will truly miss @Astro_Ferg on our mission And @AstroDuke and I welcome @NASA Barry “Butch” Wilmore to our crew. @Space_Station @Commercial_Crew pic.twitter.com/7bBpDJBQ7O
— Col. Mike Fincke (@AstroIronMike) October 7, 2020
It should be noted that this is not the first change in the crew for CFT. In 2018, Eric Boe made way for Mike Fincke for medical reasons.
In the NASA Tweet below, Barry Wilmore states that he has been training for two years for this CFT flight as a substitute, and stresses that Christopher Ferguson was a “mentor” for him.
— NASA Astronauts are Moonbound with #Artemis (@NASA_Astronauts) October 7, 2020