NASA astronaut Eric Boe pulled from first Boeing Starliner flight with crew

Boe is replaced by astronaut Mike Fincke due to 'medical reasons'

NASA astronaut Eric Boe, one of four astronauts working with the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, checked out the Crew Access Tower at Space Launch Complex 41. (Photo: NASA)
NASA astronaut Eric Boe, one of four astronauts working with the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, checked out the Crew Access Tower at Space Launch Complex 41. (Photo: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA astronaut Eric Boe, a former space shuttle Discovery and Endeavour pilot, will not be on the first Boeing Starliner launch from Cape Canaveral with astronauts, NASA officials announced Tuesday.

NASA astronaut E. Michael “Mike” Fincke will replace Boe on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner’s first flight test with crew scheduled to launch no earlier than August.

"Boe is unable to fly due to medical reasons," NASA officials said. The news release from the space agency did not provide any more details. Boe will take on a new role replacing Fincke as the assistant to the chief for commercial crew in the astronaut office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, according to NASA.

On that same Starliner flight will be NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann, along with Chris Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut who now works for Boeing. Officials said Fincke will begin training immediately with Mann and Ferguson.

“NASA astronaut Eric Boe played an instrumental role in the development of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, first as a member of the Commercial Crew Program's astronaut cadre and then during his assignment on the Crew Flight Test," the Boeing spokesperson said. "We have a better spacecraft because of Eric."

Fincke became an astronaut in 1996 and has logged more than 382 days in space, which includes nine spacewalks, according to NASA. He served as mission specialist on space shuttle Endeavour’s final mission.

NASA astronaut Mike Fincke has been added to the crew of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner’s Crew Flight Test. On left, Fincke aboard the Space Station in 2004. (Photo credit: NASA/Johnson Space Center)

"We welcome NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who brings nearly two-and-a-half decades of spaceflight experience, to the Boeing Starliner team," a Boeing spokesperson said.

Boe will continue to work with Boeing's commercial crew astronauts in his new role at the astronaut office.

[MORE COVERAGE: Meet NASA astronauts who will be first to launch on Boeing, SpaceX spacecraft]

Boe is a Florida native and U.S. Air Force pilot with more than 6,000 hours piloting more than 50 aircraft. He was part of the 2000 NASA astronaut class. Boe piloted both Endeavour and the final mission of Discovery in 2011.

News 6 interviewed Boe in August, when NASA announced the astronauts who will be flying on the SpaceX and Boeing missions. During that interview, Boe said he was excited to be working with a new spaceship at the beginning of its journey.

He said he hoped to see spaceflight one day become as common as a trip to the airport.

"Hopefully, one day, everyone will be an astronaut, get the opportunity to go to space, and we'll be sitting on the moon going, 'Why is my moon ship late?' and not really thinking about the technology," Boe said.

According to NASA, Boeing is targeting August for its first crewed flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at Space Launch Complex 41.

A United Launch Atlas V rocket will launch the Starliner, which will dock at the space station and return to Earth.