Astronaut choose daughter’s wedding during space test flight

Cape Canaveral, Fla. – The commander of Boeing’s first astronaut flight has pulled himself from the crew, so he is on Earth – not at the International Space Station – for his daughter’s wedding next year.

This is the second crew switch for Boeing’s Starliner capsule, which debuted late this year or next December due to software problems encountered during its first test flight.

Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson announced his decision on Wednesday. Last year, NASA astronaut Eric Bo stepped aside from the first Starliner crew for medical reasons. Both were replaced by experienced space station astronauts.

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Posted in a video on his Twitter account, Ferguson said it was a difficult decision, but “the next year is very important to my family.” He said he had several commitments “which I cannot afford to go missing.” A Boeing spokesman confirmed that his daughter was married.

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going to space next year,” Ferguson said. He stressed that he is committed to the Starliner program and will continue to work for Boeing.

Former NASA astronauts have flown into space three times, commanding the last shuttle flight in 2011. He has been replaced in the Starliner crew by NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore, who was training as a backup for the test flight. Wilmore joins NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Mike Finke, who replaces Bo.

In early December or early January, Boeing plans to repeat the Starliner test flight without a crew, this time in hopes of reaching the space station. If it recovers, Wilmore, Finke and Mann will fly to the space station in early June 2021 as a starliner, and orbit anywhere between two weeks and six months.

SpaceX, meanwhile, plans to launch its second astronaut flight later this month. Two of NASA’s test pilots returned to Earth in August to kick off SpaceX’s first crew mission. NASA has turned over ferries to astronauts, to space stations and to private companies.

The Associated Press Department of Health and Sciences has support from the Science Education Department of Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.