United States Vice President Kamala Harris will award former NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken the Congressional Space Medal of Honor on January 31. They will receive the award for bravery during NASA’s SpaceX Demonstration Mission-2 (Demo-2) to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA will host the award ceremony at 4:15 p.m. ET and will broadcast it Live via YouTube, the video is linked below.
Hurley and Behnken made history as they lifted off on May 30, 2020, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft to the ISS. Demo-2 marked SpaceX's first crewed launch and the mission officially returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States. The U.S. had not launched NASA astronauts on American spacecraft since 2011 when the Space Shuttle was retired. NASA depended on Russia’s Soyuz rocket to launch astronauts to the Space Station for roughly a decade. SpaceX enabled the U.S. to reemerge as a space power capable of safe human spaceflight, which is important especially now amidst rising global tensions due to the Russia-Ukraine war.
During Demo-2, Behnken and Hurley tested SpaceX’s Crew Dragon technology and certified all systems worked well for future operational missions. Since their mission, SpaceX has launched five operational NASA astronaut missions to the ISS approximately every six months.
The now retired astronauts have an extensive career at NASA and also served the U.S. military. In fact, Hurley was who flew on the final Space Shuttle STS-135 flight in 2011 and he returned to the Space Station nearly 10 years later on SpaceX Dragon. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, worked at NASA for 21 years, and has traveled to space three times. Astronaut Behnken also worked in space three times; he is a mechanical engineer, served the U.S. Air Force, and worked at NASA for 22 years.
Now, they will receive the Congressional Space Medal of Honor for their achievements, which has only been awarded to 28 astronauts in history. The award was authorized by the United States Congress in 1969 to recognize “any astronaut who in the performance of his or her duties has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the Nation and mankind.”
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About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.