Pattonville High School Alum’s Journey to the Stars and Back

Colonel Bob Behnken, North County St. Louis native and 1988 Pattonville High School Alum, co-piloted NASA’s first mission since the U.S. Space Shuttle program ended in 2011 on May 30, 2020 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Station.

Col. Behnken got his start in flight in the 90’s as an Air Force Test pilot, boasting a log of over 1500 flight hours on more than 25 aircraft. He was selected by NASA to complete astronaut candidate training in July 2000, and has since served in the Exploration branch, as Chief of the Space Station Operations Branch, and between July 2012 and July 2015 as NASA’s Chief Astronaut.

Bob Behnken tests SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship mockup Feb 23 2017 ©NASA
Bob Behnken floats outside the International Space Station in February 2010 ©NASA

Behnken flew on two space shuttle missions and has logged over 708 hours in space, 37 of which were spacewalks. This was the first American mission spearheaded by private companies, SpaceX and Boeing.

The Crew Dragon fleet safely splashed down on August 2, 2020 in the first water landing since 1975 in the Gulf of Mexico. After splash down Col. Behnken took the time to thank all NASA and SpaceX employees who helped make this mission a success.

“You should take a moment just to cherish this day, especially given all the things that have happened this year.”

Colonel Bob Behnken

Behnken and Hurley wearing SpaceX spacesuits Jan 17 2020 ©SpaceX
Illustration of SpaceX's Crew Dragon orbiting Earth ©Kennedy Space Center

This mission was the final major test before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. Future missions are expected to hold a crew of 4 to continue microgravity research.

“Colonel Bob Behnken is truly an inspiration to any student at Pattonville interested in space exploration, or any career in science, technology, engineering or math. He serves as a reminder to us all of how much Pattonville students and the people of north St. Louis County are capable of accomplishing.”

Dr. Tim Pecoraro, superintendent of Pattonville School District