A veteran Russian cosmonaut who was assigned to command the international space station in 2015 has unexpectedly resigned.
Cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov on Sept. 5 tendered his resignation to the Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos. Russian news agencies, quoting the head of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, reported Lonchakov will be “formally discharged” Sept. 14.
“He came and told me that he had found a better job than working in space,” Sergei Krikalev, the training center’s chief, told the Interfax news service. “Frankly, we were counting on him because he was not just in the unit, [but] he was assigned to a crew.”
Lonchakov was scheduled to fly as the commander of the Russian spacecraft Soyuz TMA-16M, launching in March 2015 with Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, the space station’s first two yearlong crew members.
Lonchakov is not the first career space explorer to resign for a new career, even after being assigned to a mission. NASA astronaut Joan Higginbotham left the U.S. space agency in November 2007 to become a vice president of an oil company. Her departure came the month after she was named to the crew of STS-126, which would have been her second space shuttle mission.