MEDIA ADVISORY: WUSTL alumnus and native St. Louisan Robert L. Behnken one of seven astronauts to launch to International Space Station March 11

WHO: U.S. Air Force Major and NASA astronaut Robert L. Behnken, Ph.D., will make the first space flight of his career as Mission Specialist 1 aboard the spacecraft Endeavor, scheduled to launch to the International Space Station Tuesday, March 11. Behnken graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 1992 with bachelor of science degrees in mechanical engineering and physics from the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

THE MISSION: Slated for liftoff at 2:28 a.m. EDT Tuesday, March 11, from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the spacecraft Endeavor will carry seven astronauts on NASA shuttle mission STS-123 to the International Space Station. The 16-day mission will enable the crew to add science capabilities to the space station as well as deliver equipment to aid in future maintenance operations. Astronauts will install the first section of Kibo, a Japanese-built laboratory, and the Canadian-made robotics system known as Dextre. Behnken will be making his first space flight as Mission Specialist 1 on STS-123, the 25th shuttle mission and longest shuttle flight to the International Space Station to date. The mission, which will feature five spacewalks, combines the expertise and experience of several countries working together to create a working “home” in space.


Personal data

Born in Creve Coeur, Missouri, Behnken, 37, considers St. Ann, Missouri, his hometown. Recreational interests include mountain biking, skiing and backpacking. Behnken has a younger sister and two nephews who reside in Hazelwood, Missouri. His father resides in St. Ann, Missouri.


Pattonville High School, Maryland Heights, Missouri, 1988

B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Washington University, 1992

B.S. Physics, Washington University, 1992

M.S. Mechanical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, 1993

Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, 1997

Special honors

Outstanding Mechanical Engineering Senior, Washington University (1992); National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow (1993-1996); Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate, Eglin AFB Florida Company Grade Officer of the Year (1997); USAF Achievement Medal (1997); USAF Commendation Medal (1998); Distinguished graduate from the USAF Test Pilot School Program (1999); Recipient of the USAF Test Pilot School Colonel Ray Jones Award as the top Flight Test Engineer/Flight Test Navigator in class 98B; USAF Commendation Medal (2000)

Academic experience and training

Behnken’s thesis research was in the area of nonlinear control applied to stabilizing rotating stall and surge in axial flow compressors. The research included nonlinear analysis, real-time software implementation development and extensive hardware construction. During his first two years of graduate study, Behnken developed and implemented real-time control algorithms and hardware for flexible robotic manipulators.

From left are Mission Specialists Rick Linnehan and Robert L. Behnken, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson, Commander Dominic Gorie, and Mission Specialists Mike Foreman, Garrett Reisman and Takao Doi.

Prior to entering graduate school, Behnken was an Air Force ROTC student at Washington University in St. Louis, and after graduate school was assigned to enter Air Force active duty at Eglin AFB, Florida. While at Eglin, he worked as a technical manager and developmental engineer for new munitions systems.

Behnken was next assigned to attend the Air Force Test Pilot School Flight Test Engineer’s course at Edwards AFB, California. After graduating, he was assigned to the F-22 Combined Test Force (CTF) and remained at Edwards. While assigned to the F-22 program, Behnken was the lead flight test engineer for Raptor 4004 and a special projects test director. His responsibilities included flight test sortie planning, control room configuration development and test conduct. Behnken also flew in both the F-15 and F-16 aircraft in support of the F-22 flight test program.

Behnken has logged more than 1,000 flight hours in more than 25 different aircraft types.

NASA experience

Selected as a mission specialist by NASA in July 2000, Behnken reported for training in August 2000. Following the completion of 18 months of training and evaluation, he was assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office Shuttle Branch supporting launch and landing activities at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. He is assigned to the STS-123 mission that will deliver the Japanese Logistics Module and the Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator to the International Space Station. During STS-123 he is scheduled to serve as Mission Specialist 1 for ascent and entry, perform three spacewalks, serve as the IV (internal spacewalk coordinator), and operate the space station robotic arm. (Biographical information is courtesy of NASA.)

For more information, visit or call the NASA Johnson Space Center Newsroom at (281) 483-5111.