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Starliner Commander steps down from first manned mission

Capitalism in space: Boeing’s company astronaut chosen to command the first manned mission of its Starliner capsule has stepped down because the flight would prevent him from attending his daughter’s wedding next year.

In a video posted to his Twitter account, Ferguson said it was a difficult decision, but “next year is very important for my family.” He said he has several commitments “which I simply cannot risk missing.” A Boeing spokeswoman confirmed one is his daughter’s wedding. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m just not going into space next year,” Ferguson said. He stressed that he remains committed to the Starliner program and will continue to work for Boeing.

This is the second crew change for this mission. Earlier NASA astronaut Eric Boe had had to back out due to medical reasons.

Assuming the second unmanned Starliner demo mission scheduled for the December-January timeframe succeeds, the first manned mission will happen in June ’21, and last anywhere from two weeks to six months.

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  • David K

    Wow. I don’t see anyone flying on a Dragon saying this.

  • Michael Mangold

    How do you work your entire life for a rare opportunity like a space mission, especially a maiden voyage of a new spacecraft, and then throw away that opportunity because it conflicts with “other commitments?” I especially raise an eyebrow at the daughter’s wedding explanation. What daughter wouldn’t reschedule her wedding so her astronaut father could complete his life’s ambition?

  • mpthompson

    I especially raise an eyebrow at the daughter’s wedding explanation. What daughter wouldn’t reschedule her wedding so her astronaut father could complete his life’s ambition?

    Hmm, perhaps this is more of a testamont to Ferguson’s lack of confidence in Boeing’s ability to stay on even their delayed schedule. For all we know the daughter may have already moved her wedding from this year to next year because the Boeing mission was to have flown this year. Or the odds of the mission slipping into 2022 are looking too great. It would be pretty bad to have a major family event in your life suspended multiple times simply because a government contractor doesn’t take its commitment to the American taxpayers very seriously. This may be Ferguson simply cutting bait.

  • MIchael Mangold and David K: You are both being unfair. The man has already flown in space. It is not something he hasn’t done. Nor are we aware of all the issues with his family. I suspect there was great opposition within his family, who have to live with the fear of risk with no way to do anything about it.

    And I am willing to bet that there have been and will be astronauts who will back out of Dragon for similar reasons. It has happened before and it will happen again. This is a dangerous activity, and family concerns are always a factor on whether people do it.

  • LocalFluff

    And also his dog has a birthday next year.
    It would’ve been more polite, and politically correct, for him to step down from this space raft mission by saying;
    “- Because, eh, because… Ladies first, ladies first!”

  • sippin_bourbon

    He has already flown in space.

    And the date for the wedding may have already been moved once, based on when Starliner was supposed to fly.
    Who knows. Quite frankly, it is none of our business when and why the date is set.

    The man is making a choice. As someone who has been forced to miss a few of his children’s milestones, I respect his decision, and do not reads anything into it.

  • John

    It’s OK daddy, we can have the wedding before June of next year. They probably won’t go in June anyway.

    It’s not that, have you seen that flying bucket of bolts? I’m scared, honey.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Really? Calling him a coward?

  • John:

    Please look behind you.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Disturbed by the comments above suggesting that Retired Navy Captain Ferguson has demonstrated anything but courage and commitment in his service to Navy, nation and space program.

    Scott Manley’s YouTube channel suggests that the PR reason for Ferguson to go (Commander of Final Shuttle mission that left the flag at ISS) has been eliminated and NASA would much prefer a NASA astronaut to a “commercial” astronaut. Ferguson has a face saving reason to take himself off the crew and then, as a team player, does just that. Seem’s to me more plausible than any clouding of Chris Ferguson’s courage.

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