Bob and Doug aboard the Endeavor capsule

SpaceX's First Astronauts Receive Spaceflight Medal of Honour

On January 31st, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in recognition of their bravery on the Demo-2 mission.

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Ashe S.

Ashe S.

Thu Feb 02 2023Written by Ashe S.

Bob and Doug: Military Engineers, NASA Astronauts

Bob Behnken

Flying on Space Shuttle missions STS-123, STS-130 and now SpaceX Demo-2, Bob Behnken has been one of the most active astronauts in recent history. Graduating from CalTech with a doctorate in engineering, and as a Colonel in the US Air Force as a test flight pilot and engineer, Bob entered the NASA Astronaut program in 2000. After two flights on the Space Shuttle, Bob moved to the Chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA, and oversaw the astronaut program.

Doug Hurley

Doug Hurley flew on Space Shuttle missions STS-127 and STS-135, the final flight of the Space Shuttle. As an engineer and Marine Corps pilot, Doug was selected as a NASA Astronaut in the class of 2000, beside Bob Behnken. Doug led the operations of NASA at the Russian “Star City” Training facility, where NASA astronauts would train to launch on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. 

SpaceX, Commercial Crew, and the Demo-2 Mission

Awarded in 2014, NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX to develop crew capsules that would be able to transport astronauts to the International Space Station as a safer and more cost effective way to space. Following up shortly after the retirement of the Space Shuttle, NASA saw the move to commercial space a profitable and modern approach to the future of spaceflight. The Commercial Crew program was developed after a similar program, the Commercial Orbital Transportation program, saw SpaceX and Nothrop Grumman develop launch vehicles to supply cargo to the International Space Station.

After a series of delays and setbacks, NASA and SpaceX announced the Demo-2 mission would be the first crewed mission in the Commercial Crew program, and astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley would be the astronauts flying the mission. After many rigorous months of preparation, testing, and practice, Bob, Doug and the Dragon capsule were ready to fly.

Demo-2 lifts off from LC-39A

Launched on May 30th, 2020, Bob and Doug took to the skies above Cape Canaveral, Florida onboard SpaceX’s Dragon crew capsule. Bob and Doug were the first two astronauts to ever fly on a private rocket and on a private capsule into Earth orbit. As had been tradition for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules, the duo named the capsule ‘Endeavor’, after the fifth space shuttle, which Bob and Doug both flew on during its final years.

Dragon ‘Endeavor’ approaching the ISS 

After docking to the ISS, the duo remained on station for over 60 days, performing invaluable scientific research and technological studies. The crew landed softly and safely in the Gulf of Mexico on August 2nd, 2020, bringing the Demo-2 mission to its finale.

Following the Demo-2 mission, Bob and Doug would both retire from NASA’s Astronaut program and would not fly to space again. However, both continue to be inspirations for space exploration and spaceflight.

Congressional Space Medal of Honor

On January 31st, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in recognition of their bravery on the Demo-2 mission. Some previous recipients of the Space Medal of Honor are Neil Armstrong, John Young, Pete Conrad, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Jim Lovell, and the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia.

“On behalf of the people of the United States of America, people who you may never meet but who will forever be impacted because of your work forever, it is my great honor to award you both the Congressional Space Medal of Honor"  - Vice President Kamala Harris