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NASA shuffles astronauts from delayed Boeing mission to SpaceX flight

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NASA shuffles astronauts from delayed Boeing mission to SpaceX flight
NASA astronaut Nicole Mann poses for a portrait in 2020, when NASA announced she was part of the planned Artemis team of astronauts who may fly to the moon. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

Oct. 6 (UPI) -- NASA pulled two astronauts from the delayed first launch of the Boeing Starliner capsule to the International Space Station, the space agency said Wednesday.

Astronauts Nicole Mann, 44, and Josh Cassada, 48, have been reassigned to the SpaceX Crew-5 mission to the space station, which is scheduled for launch as early as fall 2022. Mann will be the commander and Cassada will be the pilot.

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Two other crew members are to be announced later, NASA said.

The reassignment comes after Boeing has failed repeatedly to complete a successful mission of its Starliner capsule, after years of delays in development.

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A Starliner test flight in December 2019 failed to reach the space station because of software errors. Boeing scrubbed another launch in August because of "problems detected with valves in the capsule's propulsion system," the company said.

Boeing has NASA's confidence despite the delays, Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said in a virtual press conference from Houston.

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"The root cause investigation going on [for Starliner problems] is progressing very well," Stich said. "We expect to put out a release later this week from Boeing and the NASA team on how that is progressing."

He said Mann and Cassada have been working with the Starliner program for a long time and need experience if they are to be candidates for Artemis moon missions planned in the coming years.

"We really wanted to get Nicole and Josh some experience and get them in space as soon as we can," Stich said. "We have not lost confidence in the Boeing team. The team does an incredible job of working through the root cause of the problems."

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Support teams work around the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft shortly after it landed with NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi aboard in the Gulf of Mexico off Panama City, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

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