Robert L. Behnken

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Robert L. Behnken
Robert L. Behnken in 2018.jpg
Born (1970-07-28) July 28, 1970 (age 49)
Alma materWashington University in St. Louis
OccupationTest engineer
Space career
NASA Astronaut
RankColonel, USAF
Time in space
29d 12h 17m
Selection2000 NASA Group
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
37 hours, 33 minutes
MissionsSTS-123, STS-130, SpX-DM2
Mission insignia
STS-123 Patch.svg STS-130 patch.png

Robert Louis "Bob" Behnken (born July 28, 1970 in Creve Coeur, Missouri) is a United States Air Force officer, NASA astronaut and former Chief of the Astronaut Office. Behnken holds a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering and holds the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. Col. Behnken has logged over 1,000 flight hours in 25 different aircraft. He flew aboard Space Shuttle missions STS-123 (2008) and STS-130 (2010) as a Mission Specialist, accumulating over 708 hours in space, including 37 hours of spacewalk time.[1] Behnken was also assigned as Mission Specialist 1 to the STS-400 rescue mission. He is married to fellow astronaut K. Megan McArthur.[2]


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 attended Caltech for graduate school, where he earned a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1993, and a doctoral degree in 1997.[3]

Awards and honors[edit]


Behnken's graduate thesis research was in the area of nonlinear control applied to stabilizing rotating stall and surge in axial-flow compressors. 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]

Prior to 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]

Astronauts Robert L. Behnken and Nicholas Patrick carrying out spacewalk during 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.

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.[4]


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 also flew as a Mission Specialist on STS-130, which launched at 04:14 EST (09:14 UTC) 8 February 2010. This mission delivered the Tranquility module and Cupola to the International Space Station. Behnken again took part in three spacewalks during this mission.[5]

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.[6]

Crew Dragon[edit]

In August 2018 Behnken was assigned to the first test flight SpX-DM2 of the SpaceX Crew Dragon.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Behnken is married to fellow astronaut K. Megan McArthur.


  1. ^ "Robert L. Behnken (Colonel, USAF, PH.D.) NASA Astronaut". NASA. August 3, 2018. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  2. ^ Malik, Tariq (May 4, 2009). "Astronauts eager for last Hubble visit: Final telescope servicing mission brings veterans and rookies together". MSNBC. Archived from the original on April 24, 2011. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e National Aeronautics and Space Administration (2008). "Robert L. Behnken". NASA. Retrieved September 2, 2008.
  4. ^ NASA (May 11, 2010). "NASA – NEEMO 11". NASA. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
  5. ^ NASA (February 2010). "STS-130 Mission Summary" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  6. ^ Bergin, Chris (9 July 2015). "Captain Cassidy – From Navy SEAL to Chief of the Astronaut Office".
  7. ^ "NASA Assigns Crews to First Test Flights, Missions on Commercial Spacecraft". NASA. August 3, 2018. Retrieved August 4, 2018.

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

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Peggy Whitson
Chief of the Astronaut Office
Succeeded by
Christopher Cassidy