UPDATE for May 27: SpaceX's first attempt to launch the Demo-2 mission on Wednesday (May 27) was scrubbed due to bad weather. The next launch try will be on Saturday (May 30) at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT).
Two veteran NASA astronauts are ready and excited to launch from Florida to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX spacecraft this week. But who are they?
On Wednesday (May 27) at 4:33 p.m. EDT (2033 GMT), astronauts Robert "Bob" Behnken and Douglas "Doug" Hurley will strap into a Crew Dragon vehicle atop a Falcon 9 rocket and launch into space from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It's all part of SpaceX's Demo-2 mission, the first crewed test flight of the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Both astronauts have extensive flying experience and have flown to space on multiple missions. So let's dive into their history and lives.
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Behnken is thrilled to launch with this mission. "I'm really excited for this NASA and SpaceX mission to bring human spaceflight back to the Florida coast," Behnken said during a virtual media briefing on May 1. He added that he's looking forward to sharing the mission and experience with his 6-year-old son, Theodore. Behnken is actually married to another NASA astronaut, Megan McArthur, who flew on the STS-125 mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009.
"There's a generation of people who maybe didn't get a chance to see a space shuttle launch," he said, adding that now, they're "getting a chance again to see human spaceflight in our own backyard."
Behnken grew up in Missouri and earned two bachelor's degrees in physics and mechanical engineering in 1988 and 1992 (respectively) at Washington University in St. Louis, a master's degree in mechanical engineering in 1993 at Caltech and a doctorate in mechanical engineering in 1997, also at Caltech.
After graduate school, Behnken attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California while in the Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps and served as a flight test engineer. He logged over 1,500 flight hours and flew in over 25 different types of aircraft, making him especially suited to fly a new vehicle as part of this upcoming Demo-2 test launch.
He was selected to NASA's astronaut corps in July 2000. After completing astronaut training, he served as chief of the space station operations branch at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. He went on to serve as NASA's chief astronaut between 2012 and 2015.
In 2008, Behnken flew to space for the first time on the space shuttle Endeavour, as part of mission STS-123 to the International Space Station. On this flight, he served as a flight deck mission specialist for ascent and entry, performed three spacewalks and even operated the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm.
He flew on Endeavour again in 2010 for the STS-130 mission. On this flight, he served as a mission specialist and once again operated the space station's robot arm. He also, again, performed three spacewalks and served as the spacewalking lead for the mission.
In total, Behnken has logged more than 708 hours in space and has spent more than 37 hours outside of the space station during his six spacewalks.
Hurley is just as excited as Behnken to be a part of this historic flight. "It's a great honor to be a part of this mission," he said during the same conference on May 1. He noted that this launch is roughly a decade in the making and he and Behnken have been working with NASA's commercial crew program and with SpaceX for a number of years leading up to this mission. He added that it's been a "long road to get here."
Like Behnken, Hurley is also married to a NASA astronaut. Hurley is married to retired NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, who served as a mission specialist on STS-124 and a flight engineer for Expeditions 36 and 37 to the International Space Station.
He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from TK in 1988. That same year, he received his commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. He then went on to attend The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia and, in 1989, entered flight training.
He became a naval aviator in 1991 and following training, he served on three deployments to the Western Pacific. He also attended the Naval Postgraduate school in TK, California where he completed the United States Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, the Marine Division Tactics Course and the Aviation Safety Officers Course.
In 1997, he was selected to attend the United States Naval Test Pilot School in TK, Maryland and, following graduation, he was assigned to serve as a test pilot and project officer with the Naval Strike Aircraft Test Squadron (VX-23).
Hurley participated in a lot of flight testing and was even the first Marine pilot to fly the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, a fighter aircraft. He has logged more than 5,500 flight hours in more than 25 different types of aircraft.
Like Behnken, Hurley was selected to NASA's astronaut corps in July 2000. He was selected as a pilot and, after two years of training, he was assigned to technical duties in the astronaut office at TK and served as the lead astronaut support personnel for shuttle missions STS-107 and STS-121. Hurley also served as the NASA director of operations as the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.
In 2009, Hurley flew to space for the first time on the space shuttle Endeavour as a pilot on STS-127. After this mission, he served as the astronaut office safety chief. In 2011, he flew on the shuttle Atlantis on the final space shuttle mission, STS-135. Later on, in 2014, Hurley became the assistant director for the commercial crew program for the flight operations directorate. On STS-127, he spent over 15 days in space and with STS-135, he spent over 12 days in space.
Bob and Doug
The pair of astronauts will both play critical roles during this mission. As co-commanders, they will both serve as leaders in this mission, but will each have duties tailored to their specific experience and expertise.
Behnken will fulfill the role of joint operations commander with this mission while Hurley serves as spacecraft commander and completes two manual flying tests with the vehicle on their way to the space station. As history-makers as well as veteran astronauts and pilots, Hurley and Behnken are sure to continue making incredible strides in spaceflight and exploration.
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