Boeing employee and former NASA astronaut Christopher Ferguson will He no longer drives the first manned test flight Boeing’s new passenger vehicle, the CST-100 Starliner, is set to carry its first human passengers next year. NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmer will replace Ferguson on board the flight, riding with other NASA astronauts already on the mission.

In a video posted on Twitter, Ferguson said leaving the flight was a “difficult and personal decision” to make. “Next year is very important for my family,” he said in the video. I have made so many commitments that I simply cannot afford to lose. I will not go anywhere. I just won’t go into space next year. “

Ferguson has played a key role in the multi-year development of Boeing’s Starliner, a special crew capsule designed to transport astronauts to and from the NASA International Space Station. Ferguson led the last flight of NASA’s space shuttle in 2011, before retiring from the agency that year. He then joined Boeing and became Director of Crew and Mission Systems for the Starliner program. In 2018, Ferguson was named captain of Starliner’s first manned flight test, along with astronauts Nicole Mann and Mike Fink who will join as crewmates. Since he’s technically no longer a NASA astronaut, Ferguson has become the first private citizen to fly a private spacecraft into orbit.

NASA and Boeing planned their first manned Starliner flight soon this year, but the flight was significantly delayed due to problems with the program. In December 2019, Boeing launched the Starliner on its maiden flight to the space station – without a crew on board – but the mission Suffered from several software glitches The company prompted to bring the capsule home early before it reaches the International Space Station. After a lengthy investigation by NASA, it was Boeing Attempt to implement a list of 80 recommendations To ensure that no more mistakes happen on upcoming trips. The company is preparing to conduct a second unmanned test flight of the Starliner, currently planned for December.

Now, Boeing is not targeting before June of next year for its first manned test flight, and Ferguson indicated The Washington Post He’s had a family wedding and other commitments in 2021. With Ferguson stepping down, Wilmore will now begin training right away with Mann and Finky. Wilmore was already part of the mission backup crew, so he was already training for the flight in case he needed to participate in it. In preparation for the takeover, Wilmore said in a statement. “It was a difficult decision for Chris to step down, but thanks to his leadership and assistance up to this point, this crew is well positioned to succeed.”

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Meanwhile, Ferguson will still be very involved with Starliner. He is taking on a new role as Director of Mission and Operations Integration, where he will support the astronauts and make sure that their training is adequate, according to Boeing. The company notes that Ferguson will also be one of the last people the crew will see before they leave into space – and one of the first to see upon their return.