Pioneering Astronaut Bob Behnken Retires from NASA

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  November 10, 2022 
RELEASE 22-115
Pioneering Astronaut Bob Behnken Retires from NASA
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken.
Credits: SpaceX

NASA astronaut and former U.S. Air Force Col. Bob Behnken is retiring from NASA after 22 years of service. His last day with the agency is Friday, Nov. 11.

“Bob Behnken is a distinguished and talented astronaut, and an effective ambassador for our never-ending mission to explore the cosmos,” said Administrator Bill Nelson. “Bob and fellow NASA astronaut Doug Hurley launched into history with their impeccable command of NASA and SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission, and played a pivotal role in helping a new era of commercial space take flight. Along with the entire NASA family, I appreciate Bob’s service to our country and wish him all the best in his next endeavor.”   

Behnken’s career highlights included 93 days in space on two space shuttle Endeavour flights and the first crewed flight of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

Behnken was pilot and joint operations commander for the first crewed flight test of the SpaceX Dragon. Known as Demo-2, that flight launched Behnken and former NASA astronaut Doug Hurley to the International Space Station May 30, 2020, and safely returned them to Earth Aug. 2, 2020.

The Demo-2 flight inaugurated a new era of human spaceflight, which continues today with reliable crew launches to the space station from American soil on commercially built and owned spacecraft. As a space station crew member for 62 days, Behnken performed four spacewalks with former NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and contributed more than 100 hours to the orbiting laboratory’s scientific investigations.

“Bob served and led the astronaut office with calm hands and exceptional expertise,” said Reid Weisman, chief of the astronaut office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “There are few as experienced and trusted in this industry. We will miss him, and we wish him well in his next endeavor.”

Behnken joined NASA at Johnson in July 2000 as an astronaut candidate. On his first spaceflight, in 2008, Behnken was a space shuttle Endeavour mission specialist for the STS-123 delivery of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory and the Canadian Space Agency’s Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (Dextre) to the space station. Behnken performed three spacewalks, and operated station’s robotic arm both with and without Dextre attached. He flew again in 2010, as a mission specialist for STS‐130, which delivered the station’s Tranquility module and its cupola, the station’s seven‑window Earth-facing observation post. He served as the mission’s lead spacewalker, performing three additional spacewalks to install the newly arrived module. Behnken completed 10 spacewalks across his three missions, spending more than 61 hours working in the vacuum of space.

“Bob served the agency in a vital role as an astronaut and contributed greatly to some of NASA’s most important and groundbreaking endeavors,” said Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator for space operations at NASA Headquarters. “During his career, he flew missions to help build a world class science laboratory in space, flew the first commercial crew spacecraft to orbit, and left his mark in the astronaut corp. All of these contributions to human spaceflight will continue to benefit all of us as we continue to push new boundaries.”

Behnken also supported NASA astronauts on Earth in a variety of roles. Following the completion of two years of training and evaluation, he was assigned technical duties in the astronaut office, supporting space shuttle launch and landing activities. Behnken trained as an International Space Station crew member following the loss of space shuttle Columbia in 2003 and as a mission specialist for STS-400, the launch-on-need rescue flight for the last Hubble servicing mission. He served as NASA’s chief astronaut from 2012 to 2015, and deputy of NASA’s Flight Operations Directorate from September 2021 to April 2022.

“I am humbled to have had the opportunity to represent our nation as a NASA astronaut, and thankful to have been a part of the team that returned human spaceflight to the United States back in 2020,” said Behnken. “I am so looking forward to seeing and being amazed by what people of this great agency will accomplish next.”

Behnken grew up in St. Ann, Missouri, and graduated from Pattonville High School in Maryland Heights, Missouri. He earned dual Bachelor of Science degrees in physics and mechanical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis in 1992, a Master of Science in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in 1993, and a Doctorate in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1997. Behnken was commissioned via the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Before retiring from active military service in February 2022, Behnken had achieved the rank of colonel and flown more than 2,000 flight hours in more than 25 different types of aircraft.



Press Contacts

Joshua Finch
Headquarters, Washington

Dan Huot
Johnson Space Center, Houston


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