NASA has pulled astronaut Eric Boe, who was scheduled as a crew member for the first manned test flight of Boeing's Boeing CST-100 Starliner crew capsule in the second half of 2019, when he "can't fly because of medical reasons," said the room agency in a statement Tuesday.  Instead, he will be replaced by 22-year-old veteran astronaut E. Michael "Mike" Fincke, a former air force Colonel with three flights to the room under his belt, including stints on the space shuttle Endeavor and as commander of the International Space Station.
"Fincke takes the place of astronaut Eric Boe, who was originally awarded the mission in August 2018," NASA wrote. "Boe cannot fly because of medical reasons; he will replace Fincke as assistant to head of commercial crew members at the astronaut office at NASA's Johnson Space Center."
Fincke "has previously served as an international aircraft station technician and science officer at dispatch 9 and commanded the station. on Expedition 18, "NASA added. "He returned as a missionary specialist for the STS-134 crew on the Endeavor's final mission shuttle. So far, the Pennsylvania citizen has spent 382 days in space and done nine spacewalks."
According to Space.com, Fincke has extensive experience working with NASA's commercial crew members, including Boeing and rival SpaceX. The two other crew members planning to fly in Starliner-NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann and Boeing's Chris Ferguson, who left NASA in 2011 and have worked with the company ever since, have not been changed.
Crew changes (including last minute) are not unusual at NASA, which usually only provides a small amount of information on why such decisions are made. NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps, who would have been the first African American to serve as a long-term crew member on the ISS, said last year that she had been left in the dark for several months, so she was pulled off her mission. In October 2018, Epps said that the experience was "really a bad thing that happened" and that her removal "was for reasons I do not really understand at this time."
However, CBS News noted that changes due to medical reasons are less common, with Boe's relocation "thought only to mark the fifth time in US Space Program History that an astronaut has been pulled from a space flight because of a medical problem . "
Boeing and SpaceX, who are working to convert their own Dragon cargo capsule to carry crew, are in a race to see which company will be the first private entity to send people to space as part of NASA & # 39; s Commercial Crew Program. Both companies must complete a successful, effortless test flight to the port with ISS first, with SpaceX scheduled for no earlier than February and Boeings scheduled for March. SpaceX's obsolete launch is scheduled for June and Boeings in August, but the program has repeatedly hit delays (both companies' spacecraft was originally due for 2017).
Thus, schedules for their readiness could be changed if the vessel is not ready for their test dates or anything goes wrong. SpaceX – which has a lot on its hands right now with its Big Falcon Rocket / Starship program, recently announced it would add 10 percent of its staff.
The United States has bought seats for the ISS on Soyuz rockets from Russia's Roscosmos space agency since 2011, when it retired the venerable space shuttle. But the clock ticks, and NASA's contract to send passengers on Soyuz expires in November 2019.