NASA has announced a crew change for Boeing Starliner's first crewed flight, assigning veteran astronaut Mike Fincke to the flight after Eric Boe was pulled for medical reasons.
The crewed test flight is due to launch in the second half of this year, assuming that an uncrewed test flight currently scheduled for the spring goes smoothly. Fincke will fly with NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, who previously flew for NASA.
"Fincke takes the place of astronaut Eric Boe, originally assigned to the mission in August 2018," NASA officials said in a statement. "Boe is unable to fly due to medical reasons; he will replace Fincke as the assistant to the chief for commercial crew in the astronaut office at NASA's Johnson Space Center." [Here's Who's Flying on SpaceX's and Boeing's 1st Crewed Flights
Fincke became an astronaut in 1996 and has flown on three previous missions, including two long-duration stays at the International Space Station and one flight with the space shuttle program. The shuttle flight was STS-134, the final voyage of the shuttle Endeavour. During that mission, Fincke broke the previous U.S. record for longest time in space. His current tally is 381 days; he has also completed nine spacewalks.
Fincke has worked closesly with NASA's commercial crew partners since 2013, when he became assistant to the chief for commercial crew in the astronaut office, NASA officials said in the statement.
In that role, he has worked closely with both Boeing and SpaceX, and with the astronauts assigned to their vehicles on the development and testing of the new spacecraft.
Ferguson has been working closely on the Boeing crew module, called Starliner, since 2011, when he retired from NASA and joined the company. Mann joined Ferguson in working closely with the capsule in August, when NASA assigned astronauts to the first two flights of both Starliner and SpaceX's crewed capsule, called Crew Dragon. That craft is also scheduled to complete a crewed test flight later this year.
Each crewed test flight will dock with the space station, then return to Earth.