Astronaut chooses daughter’s wedding over space flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA (AP) — The commander of Boeing’s first astronaut flight has pulled himself off the crew so he’s on Earth — not at the International Space Station — for his daughter’s wedding next year.

It’s the second crew switch for Boeing’s Starliner capsule, grounded until the end of this year or early next year because of software problems encountered during the first test flight last December.

Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson announced his decision on Wednesday. Last year, NASA astronaut Eric Boe stepped aside from the first Starliner crew for medical reasons. Both were replaced by experienced space station astronauts.

FILE – In this Friday, July 22, 2011 file photo, space shuttle commander Chris Ferguson waves to the crowd at the welcome home ceremony for the astronauts of the final shuttle mission in Houston. Photo: AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

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 programme and will continue to work for Boeing.

The former NASA astronaut has flown in space three times, commanding the last shuttle flight in 2011. He has been replaced on the Starliner crew by NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore, who had been training as a back-up for the test flight.