NASA Astronauts No Longer Flying in Boeing's Starliner as They Were Reassigned to a SpaceX Flight
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons) This is an artist's conception of the CST-100 under development by The Boeing Co. of Houston for NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

NASA recently announced in its news release that it had reassigned astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada to an upcoming SpaceX flight to the International Space Station as delays in Boeing's Starliner continue to push their next spaceflight. The two astronauts both had training for CST-100 Starliner capsule.

Mann and Cassada will be the spacecraft commander and pilot of SpaceX's Crew-5 mission in 2022. The space agency will announce later other crew members of the mission.

 NASA Astronauts No Longer Flying in Boeing's Starliner as They Were Reassigned to a SpaceX Flight
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
This is an artist's conception of the CST-100 under development by The Boeing Co. of Houston for NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP).


Delays in Boeing's CST-100 Starliner

According to ARS Technica, Mann was supposed to fly to space onboard the Boeing CST-100 Starliner in 2019. However, the program has suffered some setbacks in which the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test 1 (OFT-1) that launched in December 2019 was almost lost shortly after launch because of software errors. After that incident, NASA did not clear Starliner to attempt to dock at the International Space Station.

Then this year, the OFT-2 mission reached the launchpad in August. Unfortunately, there were some problems again as Boeing initially decided to roll the Starliner back into its processing hangar for further troubleshooting and when the spacecraft's service module malfunctioned.

Kathy Lueders said two weeks ago that the teams of engineers and technicians from Boeing and NASA continue to assess the issue of the Starliner's valves. But there is no exact date yet for the mission as it might be scheduled next year.

The delays of Boeing's Starliner made NASA decide to reassign Mann and Cassada to the SpaceX Crew-5 mission, which is set to launch no later than August. This indicates that the Starliner crew mission will most likely not happen before the second half of next year. Starliner must ace first its uncrewed test mission to the space station before NASA could clear them in carrying people to space.

ALSO READ: Technical Issue Delays Boeing's Starliner Launch to ISS; No Exact Date of Liftoff


SpaceX Crew-5 Mission

Space.com reported that SpaceX had launched one crewed test mission and two operational flights to the ISS using its Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon capsule in recent years. Currently, they are preparing for the crewed Crew-3 mission that will be launched later this month.

NASA officials said in a statement that reassignments of Mann and Cassada would allow Boeing the time to complete the development of Starliner while also allowing astronauts to gain spaceflight experience for future space missions. They added that the rest of the crew of the Crew-5 mission would be announced later.

"Nicole and Josh have done a tremendous job pioneering the training and path forward for astronauts to fly on Boeing's Starliner spacecraft," Lueders said in a statement. "They have gained experience that they will take forward as they train to fly in SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft and serve aboard the International Space Station."

For Mann and Cassada, the Crew-5 mission will be their first experience of spaceflight. Mann described working with the Boeing team as a fantastic experience as they trained for the opportunity of a lifetime on a brand new spacecraft. On the other hand, she said that she is thrilled to be training on another new spacecraft, the Crew Dragon, and appreciates the NASA teams behind it.

Cassada also expressed similar sentiments as Mann and said that cross-training on both programs is a unique opportunity to learn in which they will gain valuable insight for future astronauts flying to space. Both astronauts voiced their excitement to work on the ISS and execute science experiments that will contribute to future exploration beyond low Earth orbit.

RELATED ARTICLE: NASA Boeing Starliner Update: Test Launch Might Lead to 2022 As Module Needs Replacement

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