NASA, Boeing Announce Astronaut Changes for Upcoming Starliner Crew Flight Test

Boeing Starliner. Photo credit: Boeing

veteran NASA Astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore, along with astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann, will take part in NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test, the first crew flight of the CST-100 Starliner, which will take off for the International Space Station in 2021.

Wilmore will replace Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson on flight test under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Ferguson decided not to fly for personal reasons.

Wilmore has been training side by side with the crew since he was appointed the sole backup for all flight positions in July 2018. He will now concentrate specifically on the tasks of the commander of the spacecraft in order to prepare the flight to the space station. The flight is intended to test the end-to-end capabilities of the new Starliner system.

“Butch will be seamless to fill in, and his previous experience on both space shuttle and space station missions makes him a valuable addition to this flight,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s human exploration and operations mission. “Chris was a talented member of the crew for this mission. The teams at NASA and the Boeing Commercial Crew sincerely appreciate the invaluable work he has done and he will continue to lead Starliner’s development to ensure that the Starliner Crew Flight Test is a success. ”

Barry Wilmore and Chris Ferguson

NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore (left) and Chris Ferguson, Director of Mission Integration and Operations at Boeing, train for the first flight of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, which astronauts will take to the International Space Station as part of the NASA commercial will bring crew program. Photo credit: NASA

Wilmore spent a total of 178 days in space in two missions. In 2009 he was a pilot of the space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-129 and helped deliver 14 tons of spare parts for the space station. In 2014, he returned to the space station on a Russian Soyuz spaceship for a 167-day mission during which he performed four spacewalks.

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A native of the mountain. Juliet, Tennessee, Wilmore earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville and a master’s degree in flight systems from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is a retired U.S. Navy captain with more than 7,800 flight hours and 663 carrier landings in tactical jets. He was selected as an astronaut in 2000.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner spaceship

Boeing CST-100 Starliner spaceship. Photo credit: Boeing

“I am grateful to Chris for his exceptional guidance and insight into this very complex and capable vehicle,” said Wilmore. “Having the opportunity to train alongside this excellent crew and view them as a backup made a major contribution to my preparation for this position. Resigning was a tough decision for Chris, but with his guidance and support to this point, this crew is positioned for success. We’ll move forward in the same professional and dedicated way that Chris forged. ”

Ferguson will assume the roles of Director of Mission Integration and Operations as well as Director of Crew Systems for the Boeing Commercial Crew Program, where he will focus on making sure the Starliner spacecraft meets the requirements of NASA astronauts. In this role, he will be one of the last people the crew will see before they leave Earth and one of the first to see them on their return and support them throughout their training and mission.

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“I have complete confidence in the Starliner vehicle, the men and women who build and test it, and the NASA astronauts who will ultimately fly it,” said Ferguson. “The Boeing team has taken all the lessons from our first screwless orbital flight test to heart, making Starliner one of the safest new crewed spaceships ever deployed. I’ll be there and support Butch, Nicole, and Mike while they prove it. ”

Boeing CST-100 Starliner spaceship in orbit

An artist illustration of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceship in orbit. Photo credit: Boeing

Ferguson has been an integral part of the Starliner program since 2011 after retiring from NASA as a three-time space shuttle veteran, including as commander of the STS-135, the last space shuttle flight to the space station.

“My personal thanks go to Chris for his guidance. He puts his family first, and Boeing fully supports them, ”said Leanne Caret, President and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “We are fortunate that he will continue to play an active role in the Starliner program and bring his depth and breadth of human space experience to the program.”

Developing a safe, reliable, and cost-effective solution for the transportation of crew members to and from the International Space Station remains a priority for NASA and Boeing so that the orbiting research facility can continue to deliver on its promise as a world-class laboratory.

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NASA’s Commercial Crew Program works with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems that can be used to transport crews into low-earth orbit and to the space station. Commercial transportation to and from the train station provides expanded utility, additional research time, and wider opportunities for exploration on the orbit outpost.

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