NASA Astronaut Pulls Out of Boeing Starliner Space Trip

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It’s not very often that you hear about an astronaut pulling out of the chance to go to space, but that’s precisely what NASA’s Christopher Ferguson did on Wednesday.

The experienced astronaut announced in a video posted on Twitter that he’s decided not to take his place alongside two colleagues for Boeing’s first crewed test flight of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft next year, citing family commitments.

Ferguson, a three-time Space Shuttle veteran, described the decision as a “difficult” one. Elaborating, he said that 2021 is a “very important” year for his family as he’s made “several important commitments that I simply cannot risk missing.”

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

In additional comments published by Boeing, the astronaut said: “I have full confidence in the Starliner vehicle, the men and women building and testing it, and the NASA astronauts who will ultimately fly it. The Boeing team has taken all lessons from our first uncrewed orbital flight test to heart, and is making Starliner one of the safest new crewed spacecraft ever fielded.”

Of course, Ferguson’s departure from the flight crew line-up frees up space for someone else to hop aboard.

The lucky person is another veteran astronaut — Barry “Butch” Wilmore — who has been selected by NASA to fly on the Starliner for the upcoming crewed flight test, along with astronauts Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke.

“Stepping down was a difficult decision for Chris, but with his leadership and assistance to this point, this crew is positioned for success,” Wilmore said in response to the crew

NASA safety panel raises doubts about Starliner test flight schedule

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WASHINGTON — A NASA safety panel said that while Boeing was making good progress on implementing changes to its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle, it had doubts that work could be done in time to allow another test flight this year.

At an Oct. 1 meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, committee member Donald McErlean said Boeing was making “substantial progress” on preparations for Orbital Flight Test (OFT) 2, a second uncrewed test flight that the company said earlier this year it would fly after the original OFT mission last December suffered a series of problems.

He said the Starliner crew module that will fly the OFT-2 mission is about 80% complete and its service module 90% complete. Other components for the mission, including its Atlas 5 launch vehicle and a spacecraft adaptor, have either been delivered or are being completed.

NASA and Boeing announced Aug. 28 that the OFT-2 mission would launch no earlier than December. It will be followed by a Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, with three astronauts from NASA and Boeing on board, no earlier than June 2021. If those missions fly as scheduled and are successful, Starliner could begin regular crew rotation missions to the International Space Station at the end of 2021.

That schedule, though, is subject to resolving recommendations by a joint NASA-Boeing independent review team that investigated the problems with the OFT mission. That team provided 61 recommendations, primarily dealing with spacecraft software and “mission data loads” for Starliner. It later provided 19 additional recommendations involving a communications problem Starliner experienced during the OFT mission.

McErlean said of the 61 original recommendations, 27 were classified as “mandatory” to resolve before the next mission, while 13 were “highly recommended” to resolve before the next flight and the other 21 were considered a