Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to Receive Congressional Space Medal of Honor

Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in March 2020. Image: SpaceX/NASA
Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in March 2020. Image: SpaceX/NASA

Later today, two trailblazing American astronauts will receive the Congressional Space Medal of Honor at the White House. 

The details: Vice President Kamala Harris will award former NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken the medal at 4:15pm ET today. The medal was last awarded to Robert Crippen, the pilot of the first space shuttle flight, in 2006. 

“Hurley and Behnken will receive the award for bravery” in the Demo-2 mission, NASA noted Monday. The NASA/SpaceX Demonstration Mission-2 (Demo-2) to the ISS in 2020 restored the US’s ability to launch its own astronauts to orbit from US soil. 

  • The last Space Shuttle mission had flown in 2011. 
  • Bob and Doug worked with NASA and SpaceX for multiple years, providing guidance on the Dragon program, training protocols, and more.
  • The two became the first to take a privately developed vehicle to orbit.

Rewind the tapes: When asked in 2022 about how Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon training differed from that of the shuttle, Hurley told Payload: 

“The Falcon 9 had been flown a number of times by the time we started, and certainly it flew a lot more. But Crew Dragon was essentially started from scratch, so there were all the different things that you need to consider for the design and operational capability of the vehicle: How do you fly it? How does it interact with the space station? How do you interact with the vehicle? Where does stuff go?”

“Then, there’s the training to fly the vehicle, not only for the astronauts but for SpaceX mission control folks. It was all new,” Hurley said. Hurley had formerly piloted the STS-127 and -135 missions in July 2009 and July 2011, respectively. The latter, STS-135, was the shuttle’s final flight.

How to watch: The ceremony will air on NASA TV and the agency’s website, along with its main Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook accounts. For more on the astronaut duo, Commercial Crew, and Demo-2, check out Return to Spaceon Netflix.