A NASA astronaut candidate has left the program, the first trainee to do so in 50 years.
Robb Kulin resigned halfway through his two years of training at Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Houston Chronicle reported. NASA said Kulin was leaving for personal reasons.
Kulin’s departure is effective Friday. His resignation makes him the first astronaut candidate since 1968 to resign before qualifying for a spaceflight.
NASA said Kulin’s slot among the 2017 astronaut class won’t be filled, leaving 11 members – six men and give women.
Kulin, a 34-year-old Alaska native, was tapped for the astronaut class last year. At the time, he was a senior manager at SpaceX, which is working with Boeing to develop a commercial crew capsule due to launch within the next year. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Denver and a masters and doctorate in engineering from the University of California, San Diego.
Kulin previously worked as an ice driller in Antarctica and a commercial fisherman in Chignik, Alaska.
According to the Chronicle, the last two astronaut resignations took place in 1968 when Brian O’Leary and John Llewellyn resigned. O’Leary cited the lack of spaceflight prospects for his resignation; Llewellyn left after failing to make progress piloting jets.