Space

Boeing's CST Starliner mission swaps commanders

Boeing's CST Starliner mission...
Artist's concept of the CST-100 Starliner
Artist's concept of the CST-100 Starliner
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Artist's concept of the CST-100 Starliner
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Artist's concept of the CST-100 Starliner
Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts Chris Ferguson (right) and Butch Wilmore
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Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts Chris Ferguson (right) and Butch Wilmore

Boeing and NASA have announced that astronaut and mission commander Chris Ferguson is stepping down from the first crewed CST-100 Starliner space mission for family reasons. He will be replaced by veteran NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore.

Scheduled to launch in June 2021, the first crewed mission by the CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station (ISS) has already had to deal with a number of setbacks, including an aborted uncrewed test mission and the replacement for medical reasons of Eric Boe in January 2019. The mission will now consist of Wilmore, Nicole Mann, and Mike Fincke.

With the latest crew change, Wilmore, who has been training as the backup astronaut for the mission since July 2018, will take on the duties of mission commander. Meanwhile, three-time Space Shuttle veteran Ferguson, who has been with the Starliner program since 2011, will become director of Mission Integration and Operations and overlook the Starliner spacecraft and training systems while supporting the astronauts during their missions.

Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts Chris Ferguson (right) and Butch Wilmore
Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts Chris Ferguson (right) and Butch Wilmore

Wilmore has logged 178 days in space on two Missions. He served as Pilot of the shuttle Atlantis in 2009, which delivered 14 tons of spare parts to the ISS, and traveled to the space station in 2014 aboard a Soyuz spacecraft for a 167-day mission, where he performed four spacewalks.

He has a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, and a master’s degree in aviation systems from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. In addition, he is a retired US Navy captain and racked up 7,800 flight hours and 663 carrier landings before joining the NASA astronaut corps in 2000.

"Butch will be able to step in seamlessly, and his previous experience on both space shuttle and space station missions make him a valuable addition to this flight," says Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. "Chris has been a talented member of the crew for this mission. The NASA and Boeing Commercial Crew teams sincerely appreciate the invaluable work he has completed, and he will continue to lead in the development of Starliner, which will help ensure that the Starliner Crew Flight Test will be a success."

Sources: Boeing, NASA

1 comment
fasteddie2020
I wonder if Ferguson is aging out....or recognizes that Boeing may not "get there" against SpaceX. SpaceX is moving very quickly - with increasing confidence - to be our most cost-effective means to access space. I don't think there is any turning back on this....as has proven to be the case in space launch.