Terry Renna/AP/Shutterstock Astronaut Chris Ferguson
Astronaut Chris Ferguson, who was expected to serve as the commander of Boeing’s first test flight to space next year, announced he’ll be giving up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity due to “several commitments” he cannot afford to miss.
In a video posted to his Twitter account on Wednesday, Ferguson, 59, revealed the news, calling the decision “difficult and personal,” but reassured his followers that he remains “deeply committed to human spaceflight.”
Though the astronaut remained mostly general in his explanation — only saying that the decision was due to prioritizing his family and important commitments — a spokesperson at Boeing confirms to PEOPLE that one of those commitments included his daughter’s wedding.
“I want to share with you a difficult and personal decision I’ve had to make,” he said in the clip. “I have chosen to step aside as commander of the crewed flight test, scheduled for next year. I am deeply committed to human spaceflight. I’m dedicated to the Starliner Program, and I’m passionate about the team that has built her.”
“But next year is very important for my family. I have made several commitments which I simply cannot risk missing,” he continued. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m just not going to space next year. The Boeing team has been very understanding, the crew is doing wonderfully, and thank you for your understanding, too.”
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Above the video, Ferguson wrote in his tweet: “I’m taking on a new mission, one that keeps my feet planted here firmly on Earth and prioritizes my most important crew – my family.”
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft was developed with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and designed to send seven passengers, or a mix of