Behnken, Robert

Robert Behnken is an engineer, U. S. Air Force officer and a NASA astronaut. He was born Robert Louis Behnken on July 28, 1970 in Creve Coeur, Missouri. He graduated from Pattonville High School in Maryland Heights, Missouri and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in addition to a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Washington University in 1992, all while being in he ROTC. Just one year later, he received a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, and right after was assigned to enter Air Force active duty at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He worked as a technical manager and developmental engineer for new weapons systems, and was then chosen to attend the Air Force Test Pilot School Flight Test Engineer’s course at Edwards Air Force Base in California. After he completed the training, he was assigned to the F-22 Combined Test Force and was the lead flight test engineer for Raptor 4004. His duties were to plan flight test maneuvers, develop control room arrangements, and conduct tests. Behnken also flew in F-15 and F-16 aircraft to support the F-22 flight test program. In 1997, Behnken earned a doctorate degree from California Institute of Technology.

Behnken was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in July 2000, and he reported for training the next month. After a year and a half of extensive training, he began working in the Astronaut Office Shuttle Operations Branch, where he was assigned technical duties and supported launch and landing operations at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. His first flight was in March 2008 aboard Space Craft Endeavour as a crew member of the STS-123 mission. They successfully delivered the first component of the Japanese Experiment Module and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator to the International Space Station for the final piece of the Mobile Servicing Station. During the mission, he completed three spacewalks and returned to Earth after 15 days in space. Later that year, he trained as a mission specialist for STS-400, the rescue flight for the last Hubble Servicing Mission. In between missions, Behnken found time to marry is sweetheart, fellow astronaut Megan McArthur. In February 2010, he was assigned to fly as a Mission Specialist on STS-130, also aboard Endeavour. This mission successfully delivered the Tranquility unit and Cupola to the International Space Station. Behnken operated the space station robotic arm, served as the spacewalking lead and performed three more spacewalks. He safely returned to Earth two weeks later. Behnken is currently still with NASA and a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force.