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Bob Behnken

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Bob Behnken
Behnken in 2022
Robert Louis Behnken

(1970-07-28) July 28, 1970 (age 53)
EducationWashington University (BS)
California Institute of Technology (MS, PhD)
SpouseMegan McArthur
Space career
NASA astronaut
RankColonel, USAF
Time in space
93d 11h 42m
SelectionNASA Group 18 (2000)
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
61h 10m
SpX-DM2 (Expedition 63)
Mission insignia

Robert Louis Behnken (/ˈbɛnkən/;[1] born July 28, 1970) is an American engineer, a former NASA astronaut, and former Chief of the Astronaut Office.

Behnken holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and the rank of colonel in the U.S. Air Force, where he served before joining NASA in 2000. He flew aboard Space Shuttle missions STS-123 (2008) and STS-130 (2010) as a mission specialist, accumulating over 708 hours in space, including 55 hours of spacewalk time.[2][3] He is married to fellow astronaut Megan McArthur.[4]

Following retirement of the Space Shuttle, Behnken was Chief of the Astronaut Office from 2012 to 2015. Assigned to the SpaceX Dragon 2 in 2018 as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, Behnken launched aboard the spacecraft's first crewed mission with fellow astronaut Doug Hurley on May 30, 2020, and became one of the first two astronauts launching aboard a commercial orbital spacecraft in spaceflight history.[5] The mission, Crew Dragon Demo-2, took Behnken and Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS), where they docked and stayed aboard for 62 days. Behnken completed four spacewalks with NASA Astronaut Christopher Cassidy.[6]


Behnken attended Pattonville High School in Maryland Heights, Missouri (in St. Louis County), and went on to earn Bachelor of Science degrees in mechanical engineering and physics from Washington University in St. Louis in 1992. He then attended the California Institute of Technology, where he earned an MS degree in 1993 and a PhD in 1997, both in mechanical engineering.[3][7] While at Caltech he shared a doctoral advisor, Christopher E. Brennen, with another future NASA astronaut, Garrett Reisman.[8]

Behnken's graduate thesis research was in the area of nonlinear control applied to stabilizing rotating stall and surge in axial-flow compressors.[9] The research included nonlinear analysis, real-time software implementation development, and extensive hardware construction. During his first two years of graduate study, Behnken developed and implemented real-time control algorithms and hardware for flexible robotic manipulators.[3]

Air Force career[edit]

Before entering graduate school, Behnken was an Air Force ROTC student at Washington University in St. Louis, and after graduate school was assigned to enter Air Force active duty at Eglin AFB, Florida. While at Eglin, he worked as a technical manager and developmental engineer for new munitions systems. Behnken was next assigned to attend the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School Flight Test Engineer's course at Edwards AFB, California. After graduating, he was assigned to the F-22 Combined Test Force (CTF) and remained at Edwards. While assigned to the F-22 program, Behnken was the lead flight test engineer for Raptor 4004 and a special projects test director. These responsibilities included flight test sortie planning, control room configuration development, and test conduct. Behnken also flew in both the F-15 and F-16 aircraft in support of the F-22 flight test program.[3]

NASA career[edit]

Behnken carrying out a spacewalk during the STS-130 mission

Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in July 2000, Behnken reported for training in August 2000. Following the completion of 18 months of training and evaluation, he was assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office Shuttle Operations Branch supporting launch and landing operations at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.[10]

In September 2006, Behnken served as an aquanaut during the NEEMO 11 mission aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory, living and working underwater for seven days.[11]


STS-123 crew on board the ISS

Behnken was a crew member of the STS-123 mission that delivered the Japanese Experiment Module and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator to the International Space Station in March 2008.[3] Behnken took part in three spacewalks during the mission.


Behnken flew to space for the second time as a mission specialist on STS-130, which launched at 04:14 EST (09:14 UTC) February 8, 2010. This mission delivered the Tranquility module and Cupola to the International Space Station. Behnken again took part in three spacewalks during this mission.[12]

Chief of the Astronaut Office[edit]

In July 2012, Behnken was named Chief of the Astronaut Office, succeeding Peggy Whitson. He held the job until July 2015, when he was succeeded by Chris Cassidy, after being selected as one of four astronauts training to fly spacecraft contracted under NASA's Commercial Crew Program.[13]


In August 2018, Behnken was assigned to the first test flight SpX-DM2 of the SpaceX Crew Dragon.[14] Behnken and fellow crewmember Douglas Hurley were humorously compared in news and social media to the fictional brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie because of their friendship when they participated in the first commercial astronaut launch on SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2.[15][16][17][18] It successfully launched on May 30, 2020. The spacecraft successfully docked with the International Space Station on May 31, 2020. Behnken and Doug Hurley joined the ISS Expedition 63 crew, which also consisted of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoli Ivanishin.[19] They returned to Earth in the same capsule on August 2, 2020.[20] His seat of the SpaceX Endeavour was later used by his wife, K. Megan McArthur in SpaceX Crew-2 mission, which was the second flight of Endeavour.[21]

Behnken retired from NASA on November 11, 2022.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Behnken is married to fellow astronaut Megan McArthur and they have one son.[23] Behnken holds an amateur radio license with the call sign KE5GGX.[24][25] His wife flew on the Crew-2 mission, using the same Dragon capsule and the same seat that Behnken himself used during the Demo-2 mission. She returned from the International Space Station on November 8, 2021.

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ "This is Bob Behnken" on YouTube
  2. ^ "NASA Astronauts Conclude Today's Spacewalk – Space Station". blogs.nasa.gov. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Robert L. Behnken (Colonel, USAF, PH.D.) NASA Astronaut". NASA. August 3, 2018. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  4. ^ Malik, Tariq (May 4, 2009). "Astronauts eager for last Hubble visit: Final telescope servicing mission brings veterans and rookies together". Space.com. NBC News. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  5. ^ "NASA Selects Astronauts for First U.S. Commercial Spaceflights". NASA. July 9, 2015.
  6. ^ "NASA TV Coverage Set for Final Space Station Spacewalk Power Upgrades". NASA. June 15, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  7. ^ Caltech Alumnus Robert Behnken Heads to Space - website of Caltech
  8. ^ Brennen, Christopher E. "Former Graduate Students". Caltech. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  9. ^ Behnken, Robert L. (1997). Nonlinear Control and Modeling of Rotating Stall in an Axial Flow Compressor (PhD). Caltech. CiteSeerX
  10. ^ "STS-123/ISS-16 Crew Members". CBS News. Archived from the original on April 28, 2021. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  11. ^ NASA (May 11, 2010). "NASA – NEEMO 11". NASA. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
  12. ^ NASA (February 2010). "STS-130 Mission Summary" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  13. ^ Bergin, Chris (July 9, 2015). "Captain Cassidy – From Navy SEAL to Chief of the Astronaut Office". nasaspaceflight.com.
  14. ^ "NASA Assigns Crews to First Test Flights, Missions on Commercial Spacecraft". NASA. August 3, 2018. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  15. ^ Chang, Kenneth (May 27, 2020). "Meet Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, SpaceX's First NASA Astronauts". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Ivan Couronne (May 30, 2020). "Bob and Doug: best friends on historic SpaceX-NASA mission". CTV News. AFP.
  17. ^ Yeung, Lisa (May 30, 2020). "Bob And Doug, SpaceX Astronauts, Remind Canadians Of Iconic SCTV Duo". Huffington Post. Canada.
  18. ^ Chad Pawson (May 30, 2020). "Canada's Bob and Doug take off — eh! — on social media with SpaceX rocket launch". CBC News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
  19. ^ "SpaceX and Nasa set to launch astronauts after weather all-clear". Express & Star. May 30, 2020.
  20. ^ Foust, Jeff (August 2, 2020). "Crew Dragon splashes down to end successful test flight". spacenews.com. Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  21. ^ "Megan to reuse Bob's demo-2 seat in crew-2 mission". aljazeera.com. April 20, 2020.
  22. ^ "Pioneering Astronaut Bob Behnken Retires from NASA". November 10, 2022.
  23. ^ "Astronaut Bob Behnken will be one of two-person crew on Crew Dragon Demo-2 launch". SpaceFlight Insider. May 6, 2020. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  24. ^ "Radio Amateur, Fellow Astronaut Headed to Space Station after Historic Launch". ARRL.org. American Radio Relay League. May 31, 2020. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  25. ^ "Astronauts Bob Behnken, KE5GGX, and Doug Hurley Settling in after Historic Flight". ARRL.org. American Radio Relay League. June 1, 2020. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  26. ^ "Scoop: SpaceX purchases and outfits two ships, potentially for fairing recovery". Space Explored. August 11, 2021. Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  27. ^ Pearlman, Robert Z. (January 31, 2023). "SpaceX crewmates Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken awarded Space Medal of Honor". Space.com. Retrieved February 1, 2023.

This article incorporates text in the public domain from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Chief of the Astronaut Office
Succeeded by