Boeing's top Starliner astronaut pulls out of space mission role
From Joey Roulette
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (Reuters). The chief ronaut for Boeing Co's long-delayed debut flight with crew to the International Space Station resigned from his job on Wednesday, citing family priorities.
Chris Ferguson, a 59-year-old retired NASA astronaut who joined Boeing in 2011 and became a Starliner test pilot in 2018, will remain on the Starliner team in a mission operation, he said. The start remains planned for next summer.
"I've made commitments that I just don't want to break to my family," Ferguson said in an interview with Reuters.
The personnel shock comes as the US aerospace giant attempts to overcome software and hardware problems that left the Starliner missions more than a year behind the rival Elon Musk's SpaceX spaceship.
In 2014, NASA commissioned Boeing and SpaceX to build their own capsules with which American astronauts can fly to the space station in order to free the United States from its almost ten-year dependence on Russian Soyuz vehicles for travel into space.
Software and hardware errors prevented Starliner from docking with the space station during its first test flight without a pilot in 2019.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, which sent its first pair of NASA astronauts to the space station earlier this year, is scheduled to carry three more and one Japanese astronaut later this month.
Boeing plans to rerun its unpiloted Starliner test mission in December as development teams finalize the last of more than 80 recommendations and fixes resulting from independent and internal reviews of the 2019 Starliner test bug.
NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore will stand up for Ferguson, the space agency announced on Wednesday.
"I'm not going anywhere, I'm just not going to space next year," said Ferguson. (Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington, editing by Eric M. Johnson and Aurora Ellis)
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