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Mike Fincke
NASA astronaut Mike Fincke tests the Orion spaceship exit procedure at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas. (NASA via YouTube)

NASA says a medical issue is forcing a switch in the crew for the Boeing Starliner space taxi’s first crewed test flight to the International Space Station, currently scheduled for no earlier than August.

Astronaut Eric Boe will no longer be on the flight due to unspecified medical reasons, NASA announced today. Instead, three-time spaceflier Mike Fincke will take Boe’s place alongside NASA’s Nicole Mann and Boeing test pilot Chris Ferguson.

Fincke will begin training for the Starliner flight immediately, while Boe will replace Fincke as assistant to the chief for commercial crew in the astronaut office at Johnson Space Center in Texas, NASA said.

Today’s personnel switch represents the first shift in a lineup for commercial crew flights that was announced last August.

The current plan calls for SpaceX to launch its upgraded Crew Dragon spacecraft to the space station, without a crew, as early as next month. That flight, known as Demonstration Mission-1 or DM-1, would be followed in the June time frame by a crewed DM-2 test flight with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley.

Boeing plans to launch an uncrewed Starliner on a test run to the space station no earlier than March, followed months later by the crewed flight. Assuming the tests go as planned, SpaceX and Boeing would proceed with regular space taxi flights to and from the station.

Fincke has been part of NASA’s astronaut corps since 1996. He served months-long stints on the station in 2004 and in 2008-2009. He also visited the station in 2011 during STS-134, the shuttle Endeavour’s final mission. Fincke’s time in space currently adds up to 382 days, with nine spacewalks performed.

Boe became an astronaut in 2000 and flew two shuttle missions to the space station: STS-126 on Endeavour in 2008, and STS-133 on Discovery in 2011.

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