Demo-2 Astronauts Awarded Congressional Space Medal of Honor


Former NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley, right, are seen Jan. 31 after being awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Former NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley were awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by Vice President Kamala Harris for their 2020 mission under a pioneering NASA flight services contract with SpaceX for the Demonstration Mission-2 (Demo-2) flight test to the International Space Station (ISS).

“Bob and Doug represent the best of our nation,” Harris said Jan. 31 in a statement. “The courage, the commitment, the brilliance, the vision, the ability to see and understand what is possible and then to go for it, represent the best of who we are as a nation.”

Authorized by Congress in 1969, the Space Medal Of Honor recognizes astronauts who have distinguished themselves by “exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the nation and humanity,” NASA noted in a press release.

Behnken and Hurley became the 29th and 30th astronauts to be awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. Previously recipients include post-humous awards to the Apollo 1, STS-51L Challenger and STS-107 Columbia crews.

Behnken and Hurley were the first to receive the honor since 2006.

Behnken and Hurley lifted off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on May 30, 2020, on the first crewed orbital flight from the U.S. since the end of the shuttle program in 2011.

“The Demo-2 mission showcased American leadership and technological ingenuity,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson added. “Congratulations to Doug and Bob on this well-deserved honor.”

Hurley, a former U.S. Marine colonel, retired from NASA in July 2021 after three spaceflights that included 93 days in orbit. He currently serves as Northrop Grumman’s director of business development in the propulsion systems business unit.

Behnken, also a three-flight veteran and retired Air Force colonel, left NASA in November 2022 and now works for Lockheed Martin as director of technology acceleration.

During the Demo-2 flight test, which included 62 days aboard the ISS, Behnken performed four spacewalks.

“I am extremely humbled and honored to have been presented the Congressional Space Medal of Honor today, along with my longtime friend Doug Hurley, for our efforts during the preparation and execution of the NASA/SpaceX Demo Mission 2 to the International Space Station,” Hurley wrote on LinkedIn.

“With this launch we closed a nearly nine-year hiatus in sending Americans into space, using both U.S. rockets and spacecraft, and from the Florida coast,” he wrote. “It was an incredible honor to have been a part of both this flight and the beginning of a new commercial era in human spaceflight.”

Irene Klotz

Irene Klotz is Senior Space Editor for Aviation Week, based in Cape Canaveral. Before joining Aviation Week in 2017, Irene spent 25 years as a wire service reporter covering human and robotic spaceflight, commercial space, astronomy, science and technology for Reuters and United Press International.